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We Should All Thank Rob Manfred For Giving Us A 12-Team MLB Playoff Format

It's Monday which means there's fresh MLB Power Rankings to start the 25th week of the season. 

Orioles fans are mad but I've always said that Top 3 is pretty good. I'll explain more in a minute. 

For now, let's talk about playoffs. 

At present moment, 4 divisions are essentially wrapped: NL East, NL Central, NL West and AL Central. 

Opposite that, the AL West and AL East are still very much in contention. 

The Rangers bounced back from a Labor Day slump and look to be on track. 

The Astros have the best pedigree in the AL. 

The Mariners are seemingly destined for the playoffs. 

And remarkably, there's a world where all 3 make the playoffs. 

Of course that would require the Blue Jays to fuck up down the stretch. That's all but guaranteed because Toronto always blows it. But they haven't yet, so we'll reserve the bulk of our mean spirited judgment for a later date. Right now, they're .5 and 1.5 games up on the Rangers and Mariners respectively. 

Mix in the Orioles/Rays, and that's 5 AL playoff spots to be decided by 6 teams. Just a few weeks left in the season and all we can conclude about the AL playoffs is that either the Blue Jays, Rangers, Mariners (or maybe Astros?) will play a 3-game series in Minnesota. We know the games will be broadcast at 1pm (or the earliest available) and we know Vegas will make the Twins home dogs based on principle alone. 

After that, we don't know shit. 

Will the Rays catch the Orioles? 

They played 4-games this past weekend and it certainly looked like a playoff atmosphere. The Orioles could have easily dropped 3 of 4 after losing the first 2 at home. But like every other taste of adversity, the Orioles bounced back with a route in game 3 and then battled late deficits to steal game 4. So instead of it being locked at the top, the O's keep a 2-game lead on the red hot Rays. 

Call me old fashioned, but I love the uncertainty this late in the year. Especially with the new playoff format not really having any clear advantages YET. Like, we don't know if it's better to be a 4-seed or a 6-seed. Would you rather be the 1st WC team hosting the 2nd WC team for the right to play the #1 seed? Or would you rather play the Brewers/Twins on the road for the right to play the #2 seed? 

We'll learn as we go, but right now I don't think many people can answer that confidently. There's great arguments on both sides. 

One thing we're not arguing about is the top of the NL bracket. All division winners are basically seeded with the Braves and Dodgers 100% being the 1-2 seeds and the Brewers all but certain the 3. 

And for all that certainty, there's an equal amount of chaos for the National League Wild Card spots: 6 teams after 3 spots (although the Phillies have a lot of control +3.5). 

This is different than the American League in that you have a number of teams that WILL NOT make the playoffs. In the AL - it's really just one of the AL West teams or the Blue Jays.

Incredibly - The National League playoffs should come down to the last day of the season. And while I prefer the drama of a division chase, I can just as easily settle for a wild card grab bag. 

Klemmer and I are going to sort this out the best we can on Wednesdays show. For now my big takeaway is that we've got one of the better home-stretch runs of any season I can remember in recent memory. Also, no St. Louis Cardinals so that's nice. 

Here's some other observations about the rankings and the ensuing few weeks: 

- Orioles fans are mad about being #3 but the Rays have played harder, slightly, marginally better baseball and have a better starting staff. I think it's so close that we default to a 7-game series match up and that tips every so slightly towards the Rays. Even after a 2-2 series, the Rays still looked like the better team in the aggregate. Razor thin margin but it's a margin nonetheless and someone has to be 2. So we got bold and picked the Rays. Bright side is we could be wrong and you could be right, which I imagine feels good. Cross that bridge when you get there. 

- The Brewers are so good this time of year. They probably have the best 1-2-3 + closer in the NL now that we know Brandon Woodruff looks brilliant. Peralta just got his 200th K and Corbin Burnes is Corbin Burnes. He's laid more eggs than normal this year, but still takes Cy Young stuff and experience to the mound every start. I would be inclined to bet with, not again Corbin Burnes in October. 

- There's some good teams that don't get any playing time this week on the show. Blue Jays and maybe Marlins get a small taste, but no Reds, Dbacks, Cubs, or Giants. That's not because they suck or won't be in the playoffs. In fact 3 of these clubs could easily make October. Really it's just a programming thing and we haven't yet allocated time for honorable mention. Although now that I type this out, that seems appropriate. 

- The Yankees got talked about this week. They have 6 games left against the Blue Jays and are 6 games behind the Blue Jays in the Wild Card. Let's get crazy and say they can still make it. Weirder things have happened. 

- The Dodgers deserve a pitching staff that can be somewhat competitive in the playoffs. That seems further and further away from being a reality, which obviously blows. But it also opens up the door for an elite narrative to non Dodgers fans - are Mookie and Freddie good enough to put EVERYONE on their back? Is it possible to ride two 1st ballot, generationally significant players to a pennant? Even with Bobby Miller taking the ball and Clayton Kershaw throwing 84? 

- Phillies. Put a bet on the Phillies to win the World Series. Normally I'd just say to make the WS, but I'm convinced the NL wins the whole thing. It's Braves or a club playing good enough to beat the Braves, which is essentially perfect baseball. The Phillies stack up nicely and I think you guys should know that. 

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