I sympathize with you if you wanted to see more of the Pirates in the postseason in 2015. Speaking as Andrew McCutchen's former clubhouse manager, I can't get enough of the guy. Watching him play is a joy. Watching the Pirates return to prominence after two decades in the wilderness has been inspiring.
And given the payroll realities of playing in Pittsburgh, one wonders how much longer the Bucs can keep this run of success going. According to Cot's Contracts, the Pirates had a $90 million payroll on opening day in 2015. They already have $56 million on the books for next year, and that just for six players (although some of that is mitigated by cash they received from the Dodgers to cover Michael Morse). With Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli, and Pedro Alvarez in their final years of arbitration, and with raises due to Josh Harrison, Jared Hughes, and Tony Watson, the Pirates are going to start to have trouble holding on to the depth that has become so essential to their success.
It is instinctively heartbreaking to think that this current core of the Pirates might come out of this run with just eight postseason games to show for it. And I think I speak for all of us (who are not Cubs fans) when I say that I would have loved to see more of the Pirates this October.
But I'm not disappointed enough that I would want to change to the Wild Card format to expand what is now a one-game winner-take-all event into a best two-of-three series. That's not true for everyone. Here's my heterosexual life-mate and former SBNation MLB writer Bill Parker on the issue:
So, despite their acting like a bunch of babies last night, I'm in the "Pirates deserved more than 1 game" camp. This is a dumb system.— Bill P (@Bill_TPA) October 8, 2015
somebody said they should've done better beating up the crappy teams in their division. Well, ok. Went 51-15 against the other divisions.— Bill P (@Bill_TPA) October 8, 2015
and 28-22 against the other playoff teams. One of the 3 best teams in the league for 162, & it all comes down to 1. That's barely baseball.— Bill P (@Bill_TPA) October 8, 2015
I sympathize with this position, even though Bill is wrong (and God, do I love telling him when he's wrong). Last night's game absolutely was baseball. What's more, it's exactly the kind of one-game playoff that we used to salivate over. Like the Red Sox and the Yankees in 1978. Or the Twins and the White Sox in 2008. Or the Twins and the Tigers in 2009. One game playoffs, in their relatively short history, have been historic and exciting and wonderful parts of the game we love. The Wild Card Game is exciting, in large part, because it's such a singular event. Because the stakes are so high, it is inherently dramatic and generates significant exposure for the sport as a whole.
Did the Pirates really "deserve better" though? Were they entitled to more than one playoff game? Were they more deserving than the Cubs, who finished just one game behind them in the regular season? The difference between them is essentially a rounding error. One bad bounce. One bloop hit. One hanging curveball. That the Cubs beat the Pirates (handily) isn't some travesty of justice. It isn't a random underdog hitting a miracle three-pointer in the NCAA basketball tournament. These were two equally matched teams with virtually equal opportunities to advance. If you want to say that every team should get at least two games (really, we're talking about guaranteeing a team exactly one extra game), that's not exactly a huge improvement and is entirely a matter of taste.
Finally, and this is key, scheduling Wild Card teams to play three games would actually help the winners in the Division Series. With time off for travel and for off-days, Wild Card teams would be able to start their aces in game one of the Division Series, rather than having to match up against a division winner with lesser pitchers. Jake Arrieta or Dallas Keuchel, assuming that their clubs still won their series, would then be free to pitch in both games one and five of that Division Series.
We have set up this system to incentivize winning the division, and unless you're going to do away with divisions entirely (which seems crazy to me), I don't see why you would want to lower the hurdles the Wild Card clubs have to leap in order to be successful. Winning the division should be important, and getting bounced from the postseason should be devastating. The Wild Card Game worked just like it was designed to, and no one has explained yet why that's inherently a bad thing. Don't like having to go home after one game? Well then, win next time.