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The almost-real MLB playoffs begin today

NLDS and ALDS action - all day long!

Oakland Athletics v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Major League Baseball teams who boasted the best regular season record in the National League and American League, respectively, would play each other in that season’s World Series. It put emphasis on the regular season, that thing they spend six months completing in the first place, with the final games of September taking on added importance not seen in today’s modern game.

That lasted until the 1969 season, at which point expansion forced the hand of MLB execs, and the League Championship Series concept was born. Two rounds of playoffs per league, and a total of four teams that made the postseason and the opportunity to hang a World Series banner on their outfield walls.

Everything hit the fan in 1994, you’ll recall - the addition of a Central division in both leagues, the strike, the Cincinnati Reds being robbed of the chance to claim another World Series title while boasting the best team in baseball that season, etc. With it all came the addition of both a third division winner per league and a Wild Card spot to keep the number of playoff teams an even number, and suddenly there were eight teams competing in the postseason with the chance to win it all.

After six months of regular season ball, eight teams were still going to be given the chance to win the whole shabang. Even that seems reasonable with the benefit of hindsight, as since 2022 we’ve been gifted the absurdity that is twelve teams competing in the postseason.

While, as a Reds fan, this puts an even more outsized spotlight on the team’s inability to merely ‘make the playoffs,’ the more important spotlight due here is just how silly it is to play 162 regular season games over six entire months just to then allow a whopping 40% of clubs to still have the chance to claim a World Series title. I’m not advocating a shortening of the regular season, either - that’s the real meat and potatoes of the sport of baseball, anyway - but I was then and am now advocating that MLB dump the absurdity of the additional, expanded Wild Card round of games.

Third place teams shouldn’t get second chances. They had six months to not finish in third place. Do better the first time, especially when the first time is a six month opportunity.

Anyway, that phony round of the playoffs is now complete, and the divisional round begins in earnest today. Four series, with four Game 1s for you to consume this Saturday, assuming you aren’t consuming college football and the consumption of tailgate food that comes with it. The playoffs, as they are, are finally about to actually get real.

The Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles will begin the day with a 1 PM ET first pitch, Camden Yards playing host with FS1 covering the game.

The Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros will play the Carlos Correa Bowl at 4:45 PM ET, that game on FS1 as well upon completion of Rangers/Orioles.

The red-hot Atlanta Braves will play host to the Philadelphia Phillies at 6:00 PM ET on TBS, and while I spent the first part of this rambling rant being nostalgic about a brand of more authentic playoffs, I’m not getting nostalgic about watching the Braves play on TBS.

The nightcap will send your eyes to the left coast as the Los Angeles Dodgers will host yet another series in Dodger Stadium, this time against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Clayton Kershaw will lob the first pitch of that one at 9:20 PM ET, and you’ll find that one televised on TBS, too.

No Reds, obviously, but a great slate of baseball is on your docket for the day. Enjoy!