A New Hope

232


It is the year 2012, and Major League Baseball just gave baseball fans a new hope by adding an additional wild card team. In the past three years this has greatly changed the landscape of Major League Baseball in the last three months of the season. This additional playoff team gives fans a reason to cheer for their team longer into the summer than ever before, but is it a false sense of hope?

July 31st, trading deadline, the most anticipated and crazy day in the middle of the summer for baseball fans. This is the trading deadline, and many players will be catching last minute flights and swapping jerseys.  This is the time a team will distinguish itself as a “buyer” or “seller”, or is it? Before 2012 teams were clearly distinguished as either “buyers” or “sellers”. Every year you saw blockbuster trades that moved soon to be free agents to contending teams.  Fans and the media were able to establish their team as a contender or a “dumpster fire” playing for next year.  Adding the extra wild card team changed the landscape of the trade deadline in a few ways. The amount of teams within in striking distance of a playoff spot increases, so fewer teams are willing to sell off their best players.  More and more teams are finding themselves in between “buyers” and “sellers”, a so called “grey” area. They are willing to part with middle of the road players with a return that will still improve their major league roster. Teams like the Padres neglecting to deal Justin Upton in the hopes they can still make a run at the playoffs. The Indians getting rid of marginal talent hoping it will turn out to be addition by subtraction.   Teams are also able to ask steep prices for their top tier talent.  This results in less blockbuster trades than what we were used to seeing only five years ago.  This is one of the reasons there has been recent discussions about pushing the trade back.

The trade deadline is always one of the most anticipated days of the baseball season year in and year out, but recently there has been less and less fireworks come 4 P.M. on July 31st.August, literally and figuratively is the hottest month of the summer.  Teams, players, and fans feel like the season is starting over. It is time to make a run, and close the gap between playoff contender and playoff pretender. Today is it August 5th, and there are eight teams in the American League within six games of the second wild card spot.  With all these teams playing each other six games is not a lot to overcome. Despite the Indians being a “dumpster fire” as myone friend refers to them as, or rolling out the worst lineup in baseball history they still have a chance to make the playoffs. That’s what makes baseball a funny game, and yet a frustrating game. Any team can make a run and get into the playoffs. This extra playoff team gives us hope long into August.  Four years the playoff picture would be pretty much written. There would be a few teams battling it out for the wild card or the division title, but the rest of us would be gearing up for football season. Not anymore, more teams than every are vying for a playoff spot, and even though there is probably no chance in hell most of these teams are close to playoff teams they are still within striking distance keeping their fans tuned in longer than ever before.

September, the month of fireworks an heartbreak.  This is the month when everything gets interesting. There are always a couple teams that make an improbable push to make the playoffs, but come up just short. This is supposed to be the month we see the next class of future moderate to underperforming major leaguers since the rosters expand from 25-40.  But no, since more and more teams are still hanging around just toying with our hearts these late season call ups are fetching water and carrying pink ball bags.  No longer do we get to see the Cord Phelps’ and Kevin Kouzmanoff’s of the world tear it up for a couple of games and get us excited for the next year.  We are now engaged, and on the edge of our seat. Trying and pleading to find a reason that our team will win 8 of 10 games and sneak into the post season.  We want to watch, we need to watch. The millions and millions of fans of these five or six teamswill get their hearts broken once again. Five years ago we were packing it up in August. We wouldn’t feel guilty if we missed a walk off win because we were outside chugging beer and playing cornhole. Now we get upset with ourselves, we need to watch our team. Even if we know they will break our hearts, we still have that small sliver of hope. That extra team, one team, gives so many fans a false sense of hope.