The New Playoff Format

On the off chance that you, as a baseball fan, haven’t been paying attention, Major League Baseball is going with an expanded playoff format this year. Six teams from each league will be fighting it out; the two division winners in each league with the best records will sit out the first round of playoffs while the other four battle it out in best-of-three series for the opportunity to face them in the second round.

Here’s how the “seeding” works:

1st seed: Division winner with the best overall record.
2nd seed: Division winner with the next best record.
3rd seed: Division winner with the third best record.
4th, 5th, and 6th seeds: Non-division winners with the three best overall records.

There are a bunch of rules in place to prevent the need for tiebreaking games.

In the first round, the third and sixth seeds play each other, as do the fourth and fifth seeds. In the next round, the winner in that first series (3 vs 6) will play the second seed; the winner in the other series (4 vs 5) will play the first seed.

Pretty complicated, isn’t it. It will get worse should MLB decide to expand the playoffs to seven teams per league, as some are speculating.

Anyway, it is always useful when there’s a format change like this to hop back in time and see what the playoffs would have looked like if these rules were in place at the time…

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Gate (1987)

It was a dark and stormy night in Nameless Suburban Town. In the midst of some unsettling dreams, a bolt of lightning takes out the tree in the backyard of Glen’s (Stephen Dorff) home. The next day, the removal of the now-dead tree reveals a rather large hole in the ground. Well, dealing with it will have to wait. Glen’s parents are heading out of town for the weekend, leaving his older sister Alexandra “Al” (Christa Denton) in charge. A large panel of wood is placed over the hole, and strict instructions are given to NOT go in and poke around.

Well, try telling unsupervised teens that they can’t do something. Glen and his friend Terry (Louis Tripp) poke around in the hole. While digging out a large geode, Glen cuts himself on a splinter of wood. A few drops of blood fall into the hole – can’t be anything significant, right?

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Pandemic to Endemic

So it seems President Biden caused quite the stir when he said in his 60 Minutes interview that the COVID pandemic was over. Quite a few people – medical professionals and infectious disease experts included – disagree with him, and warn that COVID is still around, and that there’s still plenty of potential for new and dangerous variants to pop up.

Well, they’re right.

But so is President Biden.

The pandemic phase is over, and we’ve shifted into the endemic phase.

The time for containment is over. COVID is everywhere; there’s no justification in shutting schools and closing businesses. Nor is there much point in requiring masks or proof of vaccination. By now, everyone who is going to get the vaccine (and the boosters) has done so. And no one is going to tolerate masking up when they don’t have to. Our health care system can handle the current case load, and there are a number of good treatments should someone catch the disease. We can even scale back some of the emergency economic measures, too.

Yes, COVID is still around. It’s still killing people. People should still get booster vaccines as they become available, and put on a mask if they’re going into a health care facility of any kind (or if they want to, just in case). Yes, those who have “long COVID” will need the requisite long term care; that’s something that can be dealt with as it comes up.

BUT.

We can handle it. COVID isn’t scaring anyone any more. It’s time to shift from a preventive strategy to a mitigation one.

Enough panicking – it’s pointless.

Chicago – 8

A couple of leftovers to wrap this up.

I’d forgotten to include this in my comments on Wrigley Field, so here it is. The fans have a thing called “Moundball”, where they make a friendly wager on whether or not the ball will come to a stop on the pitching mound when the home plate umpire tosses it there at the end of a half-inning. It all seems to be in fun; I didn’t catch any actual betting. A good thing, no doubt; I’d hate to see the sports gambling sites start to take wagers on it.

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Chicago – 7

One could quite easily call the stretch of South Michigan Avenue from East Adams Street to the Chicago River “Museum Row”, since there are a couple of cool museums and attractions there, all north of the Art Institute.

The first stop is the Cultural Center, between Washington and Randolph Streets. The building used to be the city’s public library, but got converted into an all-purpose arts and culture facility in the 1990s. It hosts a wide assortment of lectures, film screenings, workshops, and performances – all free to the general public. There wasn’t much happening when I visited, and it seemed like a lot of the rooms were under renovation, since many places were closed off. However, the “holy crap, that’s awesome” highlights were still open. Continue reading

Chicago – 6

The Art Institute of Chicago is much easier to get to – it’s right there on Michigan Avenue. When I went, there was actually a small crowd waiting to get in. Seems they don’t open to the general public until 11 am (one hour after they let Members in), so there’s time to hang around if, er, when you get there early. Fortunately, it’s just south of Millennium Park and just north of Grant Park, so it’s a nice place to stroll around while the clock ticks.

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Chicago – 5

Every big city is going to have something in the way of a “natural history” museum. Chicago is no exception; the Field Museum is located smack in the middle of a park on the lake shore, on the wrong side of the Lake Shore Drive. Which makes it a bit inconvenient to get to, if you can’t figure out the bus routes and forget that you have a transit pass….and approach it from the side where the entrance happens to be closed that day….

But if you can pass – or at least bulldoze your way through – that intelligence test, the museum is well worth it. Continue reading

Chicago – 4

Given how many tour boats are on the Chicago River at any one time, it must be some sort of legal requirement that all visitors take a tour when they are in the city. There are several choices for type, length, and time of tour, but the most common ones are those that take you around the waterways to see the collection of interesting buildings in the downtown area. A primer, as it were – with examples – of 20th century American architecture.

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Chicago – 3

Remembering the walking food tour I took on my visit to Denver, I looked for similar tours in Chicago. A company called “Bobby’s Bike Tours” offered a couple. They looked good, so I booked a tour that combined a little bit of history with some of the city’s “iconic” foods.

Well, I did want to try deep dish pizza in the place that invented it, so….

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Chicago – 2

As I mentioned, Chicago is home to two major league baseball teams – the Cubs and the White Sox. The city is home to a few more professional sportsball teams, but I don’t care about them. So it was just a matter of finding a week when both teams would have some home games, and then scheduling my visit then.

While neither of their home stadia are in the downtown area, they are both convenient to mass transit. Wrigley Field was first on the schedule.

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