Winners go on, losers go home

No other professional sport comes close to baseball for sheer number of games played in a season. Playing (almost) every day, for six months plus the post season, shows that baseball is the American game. Football is too violent to play once a week, and the idea that NBA teams could play two or three games in a row in the same city is laughable. Although right now, they probably hope they get to play anywhere at all this season. But we’ll see how that works out soon enough.

Every baseball game is less than one percent of a team’s entire season. And a double in April counts the same as a double tonight does. So there isn’t anything terribly special, statistically speaking, about tonight’s final regular season games. And yet, these at-bats for the players, and these innings thrown for the pitchers, could make the difference between playing games this weekend, or hopping a flight back to wherever home is. The old saying “win or go home” really does apply to the Cardinals, Braves, Red Sox and Rays this evening.

These aren’t “playoff” games, in the sense that they’re still being played during the regular season. The MLB logo doesn’t appear on the tickets to tonight’s games, and there aren’t umpires down the first and third base lines. But the stakes are essentially the same as a playoff game, and the fact that they’re not head-to-head games makes it even more interesting.

The concept of watching the scoreboard, in order to see how the other team is doing, comes into play tonight like it rarely does at any other time in the season. Fans at the games tonight will have one eye on the field, and the other eye on the scoreboard. Scoreboards are put into ballparks for signage money, sure, but tonight they serve the purpose they were intended to serve. And that’s great for the game.

The wild card has made tonight’s multi-city drama possible, and the fans in whatever cities emerge victorious tonight–or in a playoff game, if needed–should be grateful that baseball has extended them a second chance. That doesn’t guarantee success in the playoffs, but it means that a long season doesn’t have to end just yet.

I’ll be watching tonight, and hopefully there will be something to write about in the future. To be honest, it would only be surprising if there wasn’t something worth writing about to come from tonight’s games. It’s as if we’ve started the post season a day early, and we’re all the winners for that.

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