For the third year in a row, the Pirates won the top wild card spot in the National League. For the second year in a row, they lost to a fantastic pitcher.
First, baseball's one-game playoff series is a failed idea, as anyone could have predicted before it was even implemented. A sport that determines we need to have 162 games and that winning 60% of the time is outstanding has decided to use a glorified coin toss. But oh, what a lucrative coin toss it is.
It's actually worse than a coin toss because it rewards a lower-quality team that has one outstanding player. Again, not a complaint: the fact that the Pirates knew what happened to them last year and didn't go get one of the top three pitchers in the league is their own fault. But everyone should know by now that winning the wild card game depends on one guy, not a team.
"Talk about incentivizing a division championship, huh?" You know what else gave incentive to win the division? Not having a wild card at all. Oh, but we can't talk about that, can we?
In one sense, the Pirates were a better team than the Cubs, finishing the year with the better record. But head-to-head this year, the Cubs won 11 of 19 meetings, so again, the Pirates don't have much room to complain.
Baseball has a ridiculous playoff system, though, when the top three teams in baseball are funneled into the same side of the bracket. The top team, the Cardinals, are now playing the winner of the one-game playoff between the second-best team, the Pirates, and the third-best team, the Cubs. So I guess the World Series is going on right now, and it's a five-game series between two teams who played each other 19 times already this year. Some drama, huh?
If you want to play for the title of "best team in baseball," you should not finish the season the third-best team in your group of one-sixth of baseball. And yeah, that applies to finishing second in the division, too. The Pirates shouldn't have been in the post-season if they couldn't finish the year with a better record than the Cardinals. They had plenty of chances to do it. Three walk-off losses in Saint Louis on the first weekend in May was what separated these two teams. That's harsh, but that's baseball. What's not baseball is guaranteeing that the National League Championship Series will feature either the fourth-best or the fifth-best team in the league. That's just stupid.