It’s Hard To Figure Out Who Plays Where Or When In The MLB Postseason

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Truist Park, formerly SunTrust, will host the 2021 NLCS at some point in time.Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

Nothing in the world of sports can possibly be as confusing as the postseason schedule of Major League Baseball.

In an unabashed effort to accommodate the lords of television, the game has devised a complex, confusing, and inexplicable schedule that even Einstein couldn’t understand.

For example, any wild-card team that advances always has to yield home-field advantage to its opponent. Right?

Well, not necessarily.

Consider the case of the Atlanta Braves, champions of the National League East.

After they beat the Milwaukee Braves in a four-game Division Series, the Braves didn’t know whether they would host the NL Championship Series Saturday or have to fly to San Francisco for the first two games.

That was to be determined by the outcome of the Dodgers-Giants game that started so late Thursday night — at least on East Coast time — that its outcome figured not to be settled before the wee hours of Friday morning.

If the Giants, champions of the NL West won, the NLCS would open at Oracle Park Saturday, then revert to Atlanta Tuesday for the middle three games in the best-of-seven set.

But if the Dodgers won, the series would open in Atlanta because L.A. is the league’s wild-card team — despite 106 wins, just one less than the Giants.

Under that scenario, the Dodgers would have to fly to the East Coast and play Saturday, with the first two and last two games scheduled for Truist Park in Atlanta.

Such uncertainty makes life crazy for the media members, fans, sponsors, and other out-of-towners who need to go to the games.

How can anyone book air tickets, hotels, and rental cars, not to mention make plans for their suddenly-disrupted personal loves, if they don’t know what’s happening more than 24 hours in advance? And suppose the vagaries of weather, such as pea-soup fog on San Francisco Bay, force an unexpected postponement?

The plot thickens.

But how about this for a plot-twister: should the Boston Red Sox beat the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, they would host the start of the World Series — even though they, like the Dodgers, got where they are by winning a wild-card game.

Say what?

Apparently, the rule preventing wild-card winners from having home-field advantage doesn’t apply to the World Series. In that case, the team with the best record gets the advantage in the best-of-seven match.

That means Boston, which won 95 games, has the advantage over Atlanta, which won 88.

Too bad they didn’t have the exact same number of victories. Then what? Would Rob Manfred order a coin flip?

Things made more sense when the leagues alternated home-field advantage, with the AL getting it one year and the NL the next. At least there was continuity and people knew what was coming before it hit them between the eyes.

Baseball also needs to let people know the starting time of its games will be in advance. With four different networks covering the playoffs, that should be a no-brainer.

It should also be a no-brainer to play late-October World Series games during daylight hours on weekends. Conditions are best then and that’s what the public should be seeing.

We all saw what could happen when cold and snow disrupted the only World Series played in Denver, in 2007. It won’t snow in any of this year’s Series cities but that doesn’t mean it won’t be cold, windy, and unpleasant — especially if the last round reaches San Francisco.

Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch, author of 38 baseball books, and contributor to forbes.com, Ball Nine, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and more. Check his website at www.DanSchlossberg.com or e.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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