There’s a great divide in the early morning sky; ditto for early evening. Dawn and dusk. American League and National League and a moment in early October-The World Series when the sky turns a rosy cheek and sometimes purple and never before seen blues; a ray of light beaming a line of clouds like a tornado following a specific path. The ABC intro music was goose bumps.
In 1969, those two leagues splintered into divisions; four of em; with each league having an east and west. But in one very specific way, the leagues became even more distinct. The DH was born in 1973. A huge change for sure and for all the criticism it endured, no one denied the ring splitting even further; into two camps; the pure, old school National where pitchers still bat and the bastard junior circuit-the American League of motor cities and muscle cars; of designated hitters.
Even after the leagues split, there were still only four division winners; followed by a short best of 5 league championship series with the winner gaining access to the coveted zone….that fall classic. Then in 1995, a wild card was added and last year a second wild card. The playoffs feel more like a pot luck dinner these days with five teams in both leagues reaching the promise land. All are welcome.
There’s still euphoria in reaching the playoffs, but a noticeable “yeh, but” lingers, a yeh, but it could all end in one day if we’re a wild card or in a week if that wild card team we have to face as division winners suddenly gets hot or we get cold.
Back in the day, winning the division was worthy of a ticker tape parade and in many ways, more than enough. The season was considered a success and sure, the ultimate goal was advancing further and claiming the WS trophy, but being one of four was way more than one of 10.
Throw in interleague play and October is not the clash of two separate galaxies. It’s a repeat of the regular season. Maybe it’s for the better of the game. Turnstiles spin more frequently. Bud Selig gets a statue. Competitive balance rules. But that early morning/evening sky makes for some strange firework residue. I miss it. Pittsburgh versus Baltimore sounded so strange and exciting.
On the other hand, all this intermingling turns a regular Sunday afternoon game at Miller Park into maybe what it’s supposed to be anyway…..game 106 of the season; an end in itself with nothing outside its 9 inning parentheses. No sneaking a peek at the scoreboard to see if the Cardinals or Pirates won. No calculating magic numbers to division or wild card crowns because the playoffs these days are way more than a different season, For better or worse, it’s a church bingo and anyone can win.
Rookies Jacob deGrom and Jimmy Nelson made it easy to focus on Sunday and Sunday only, deGrom scattered four hits over six and a third innings; Nelson 5 hits over 7 innings, but one of those hits was Lucas Duda’s 18th home run of the year. The Mets won 2-0.
The Brewers are 59-47.