It's a sad combination when you're both most excited for a baseball playoffs in years and also the least likely to watch a lot of the playoffs in years (given, you know, work). Still, October starts a day early this time, with the first play-in game on September 30th, but this will be one hell of a ride. No Yankees. No Red Sox. That hasn't happened since the early 90's. All we get are just ten really good teams, and three amazing stories. There will be October baseball in Kansas City. Hopefully more than a game. There will be October baseball in Pittsburgh. There will be at least two October nights in Baltimore. Five years ago those were three of the most despondent teams in the league. Five years ago Sports Illustrated said the Royals would make the playoffs by 2014. Well, right on schedule.
Baseball is at such an interesting place right now. With hitting at 30-year lows, and with the lack of PEDs letting players age naturally for once, young talent has dominated the sport. Getting good production out of your salary arbitration players is the largest advantage any team in MLB has. Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kansas City have rode that advantage to the playoffs, and I couldn't be happier. In reality, the Pirates are now in teh playoffs for the 2nd straight season. The Orioles fluked their way to a playoff spot in 2012, but are back, and back with ease, just two years later. The Royals built this slowly, but are very deserving. Three teams, all with great stories, all with fanbases that were starving for October baseball. They'll all get it, at least one game at least.
This does't mean there aren't high-payroll, big market teams. The Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball. Their best player is getting (deservedly) paid 25+ million and will be for the next decade. The Angels have a high payroll and obtained the top free agent prizes in both 2012 and 2013. The Tigers did something of the same and have two of the highest paid players in baseball in Verlander (who, in all fairness, should probably not even start this playoffs) and Miggy Cabrera. The Cardinals are in the upper half with payroll, and are one of the marquis franchises. But that is why this playoffs is fun. There are big teams. There are the teams we've seen recently, including the AL World Series participant in 2012, and the NL rep. in 2010-2013. The Giants will try to continue their 'Win the World Series in all the Odd-number years'. The Nationals will try to erase the memory of their Game 5 collapse from two years ago. Everyone has something to play for.
I still don't know if I like the one-game playoff to start it, but when it allows more playoff teams to get in, I'm for it. It's fun having October baseball in your town, and this gives a chance for more teams to get just that. There's just a different energy in a baseball stadium in October. Especially when it is in colder areas, which we have a bunch this year. October baseball at night in Pittsburgh last year and Baltimore the year before that was just an incredible sports moment. I can imagine Kansas City being just the same tomorrow. October baseball in San Francisco has been awesome in both 2010 and 2012. Everything changes in October. Each pitch gets so heightened. Late game, close game, closer taking a while between pitches just staring down the batter. Suddenly, he pulls back to pitch. Your heart stops; time stops. That .5 seconds between the pitch reaching the batter takes a lifetime. It all starts tomorrow. October baseball is a timeless classic that I which more sports fans would embrace. I know I will.