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Snake Bytes 10/5: Wildcard War

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“And sometimes when the game is on the line Tessie always carried them away. Up the road from third base to Huntington the boys will always sing and sway...”

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Around the League

[The Athletic] Ranking the 10 most dangerous hitters in the MLB playoffs, with insights from pitchers: Inside Baseball - While working over the weekend to whittle this list to the 10 most dangerous hitters in the playoff field, I asked a handful of active MLB pitchers to give their 60-feet-6-inches perspective. “Oh, this is fun,” one of the pitchers replied, then returned a half-hour later with his own list and fear-factor takes. It’s a subjective exercise, but an interesting one. In speaking with pitchers, there emerges a divide between the hitters who are hottest this season — Tyler O’Neill, Luis Robert, Yasmani (??) Grandal (???) — and those who’ve been dangerous for years. Past postseason success carries weight with this crowd. “Guys that are proven matter so much in the playoffs,” one pitcher said. Consider Justin Turner. He wasn’t the Dodgers’ best hitter this season, or even top five. By his (very high) career standards, his 2021 numbers are average: .278/.361/.471, 27 homers, 87 RBI and an .832 OPS. But now it’s October. Turner owns a World Series ring and an .899 postseason OPS. “Something about Turner in the playoffs is particularly daunting,” a pitcher said.

[The Washington Post] It’s unfair the Dodgers have to play one game for their season after 106 wins. Isn’t it great? - (Clearly not a title I wrote. It is entirely fair.) And here is what the Dodgers or anybody concerned on their behalf should do if they feel slighted: Get over it. October’s arbitrariness has been a feature, not a bug, of baseball’s postseason since the introduction of the second wild card and the one-game playoff in 2012. With the many things wrong with baseball at the moment, the postseason format — starting with two outrageously compelling one-and-done games Tuesday and Wednesday — is exactly right. If this were about fairness, the Dodgers should pack their equipment, make tee times and wait for spring training. The 107-win Giants proved themselves the best team in the National League over 162 games. If baseball wanted to prioritize fairness, the Giants would be playing the American League wins leader, the Tampa Bay Rays, in the World Series this week.

[Sporting News] Yankees vs. Red Sox: History of MLB’s biggest rivalry in postseason, elimination games - There aren’t many rivalries that can match the historical significance and notoriety of the Yankees and the Red Sox. Despite more than 100 years of history as rivals, the two teams have rarely faced off against one another in the postseason. This stems from the fact that the two teams play in the same division and, until 1995 with the introduction of the wild-card and division series, only one team per division could reach the postseason... For the first time, the two teams will face off in the winner-moves-on, loser-goes-home wild-card game on Tuesday.

[MLB.com] The key injuries for every playoff team - Day to day:DH J.D. Martinez (left ankle sprain), LHP Josh Taylor (lower back strain) Martinez’s fluke injury in the regular-season finale — tripping over the second-base bag and spraining his ankle while running out to play right field — would be the biggest injury news of the Wild Card Game if he’s forced to miss it. Martinez had 28 home runs and an MLB-leading 42 doubles this season.

[CBS Sports] Veteran MLB umpire Joe West to retire after 2021 MLB postseason; will be home plate ump for NL Wild Card Game - MLB umpire Joe West is set to retire after the 2021 postseason and has officially informed Major League Baseball of his plans, according to ESPN. The 68-year-old is the record holder for most games umpired, a record he broke in May. His record-breaking game came when he umped his 5,376th contest, which surpassed previous record holder Bill Klem. West is scheduled to work the National League Wild Card Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

[MLB Trade Rumors] Rays’ President Erik Neander Signed Five-Year Extension - Last month, the Rays announced they’d signed baseball operations leader Erik Neander to a multi-year contract extension that included a promotion from general manager to president of baseball operations. The team didn’t specify the contract’s exact length, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times now reports the extension tacked on an additional five seasons. Neander’s now locked up to run the club’s baseball operations through the 2026 campaign. The Rays didn’t announce the deal until the first week of September, but Topkin adds the additional tidbit that it was actually agreed upon during the season’s first half. Going into the All-Star Break, the Rays sat half a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings. Tampa Bay went on a 47-25 tear in the season’s second half, though, coasting to a division title and their first 100-win season in franchise history. They’ve clinched home field advantage through the American League playoff field and will host the winner of tomorrow night’s Yankees – Red Sox Wild Card game in their Division Series.

[Front Office Sports] MLB Attendance Hits 37-Year Low - The league saw 45.3 million fans attend regular-season games in 2021, a 33.9% drop from the 68.5 million in 2019, and the lowest figure since 1984. Certain caveats apply: Many teams only opened to full capacity by midseason, and the Toronto Blue Jays played at alternate sites until late July due to Canadian travel restrictions. However, fans also watched fewer games from home. Viewership was down 12% compared to 2019, as of late August. This was partly related to regional games moving from Fox to Bally Sports in March, cutting off some viewers with YouTube TV, Dish, and Sling TV.