It seems that the solution in Major League Baseball for two teams being tied for a divisional crown after a 162 game season is to… play one more game.
But is that really the best solution?
Admittedly, it was exciting and gave what was a scheduled off day on Monday between the regular season and the playoffs an added level of intrigue, particularly given that we received a double dose of it.
However, economic reasons aside related to lucrative television deals and the boon to MLB’s coffers that an extra day of games provides, there doesn’t appear to be a sporting justification for playing off for the title in a winner-takes-all showdown.
That was the scenario in both the National League Central and National League West on Monday as Wrigley Field played host to a Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers battle, while the Los Angeles Dodgers welcomed the Colorado Rockies afterwards.
It shouldn’t have been the case though and when all was said on Sunday night, there should have been celebratory champagne corks being popped for both the Cubs and Dodgers.
Ultimately, the Dodgers saw off the difficulty that the tiebreaker posed but for the Cubs, they came up short and have reason for feeling aggrieved about it because those two sides should have been the rightful winners.
Of course, that is to take nothing away from the Brewers and Rockies, whose sensational September surges put them in a position to raise the division title and they deserve all the credit in the world for what they did.
After 162 games, we had all of the evidence that we needed that when the clubs were tied on level pegging, there was a simple statistic that could be referred to in deciding the winner.
Over the course of the year, both the Cubs and Brewers and the Dodgers and Rockies played each other 19 times.
That leaves no margin for error or a tie in the event that the sides end up locked level come the close of September baseball, as they ultimately did.
Given that there was an odd number of games, MLB already had a built-in tiebreaker to decide things in the event that the teams had each won eight games apiece throughout 2018.
As it happened, that wasn’t the case.
In the NL Central, the Cubs and Brewers slugged it out over the course of 19 tense games that were closely fought and tight more often than not.
But when all was said and done, the Cubs had beaten the Brewers 11 games to eight, scoring 57 runs to the 54 of Craig Counsell‘s men and shutting the Brew Crew out in no fewer than six of their 11 victories.
Surely that should have been enough to decide who was the better team of the two rather than forcing the need for one more game?
In the NL West, things were even more convincing and the Dodgers will likely feel that it would have been a travesty and that the better team had been beaten if they lost Monday’s one game shootout.
After a sluggish start to the year, things picked up at Chavez Ravine before long and prior to game 163, their record against the Rox after 19 meetings read 12-7 in Los Angeles’ favour.
Throughout those games, the Dodgers also scored 29 more runs than the men from the mountains as they pummelled in 98 runs, while the Rockies managed 69.
Nineteen games against your closest rival is a large enough sample size and if the teams records are identical at the end of play, what better way to decide who was best than to compare their results against each other over their 19 times.
It really should be that simple.
Particularly as things have now become considerably problematic for the Cubs and Rockies.
A win-or-go-home wild card game awaits them, on the back of a winner-takes-all battle the day before, which was preceded by a must-win game 162 the previous day.
That is all before the winner must then go again quickly as they march on into the NLDS.
It wasn’t ideal for the two winners either and neither the Brewers or Dodgers should have been embroiled in those games on Monday, instead using the time to prepare for what the postseason had in store.
For fans and neutrals, there is no doubt that a final regular season game featuring all the buzz and stakes of a postseason clash is an exciting affair.
But necessary it is not.