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Monday Musing: Yankees in the Playoffs? Are They Really?

Tomorrow is the most important game of the season to dictate whether or not the Yankees get to continue on in the 2021 postseason.

Today, however, in a post that is just as much fun as a “do or die” game, Ethan muses about the nature of the words we use to talk about the games that happen after the season is over.

 

One-Game Play-Offs? Play-In Game? The Postseason? The Wild Card Game? Honestly, What is It?

The question has to be asked: Is the MLB Wild Card game a part of the postseason? It is a question that often plagues myself- as well as many baseball fans- about the nature of the Wild Card and what it has been since the adoption of the 2nd team in 2012. There are many trains of thought about what it really is, hence the 4 different considerations of what this “series” can be considered as.

Now, is this portion of this post entirely going to be about semantics? Yes. This is your warning.

What are “playoffs”? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are two definitions:

a final contest, series of contests, or period of play to determine the winner between contestants or teams that have tied;

a series of contests played after the end of the regular season to determine a championship

Now, while the first definition is met by the Red Sox and Yankees this year by both having a 92-70 record and using the upcoming game on Tuesday as a playoff to “determine a winner from a tie”, the more appropriate descriptor is the later of the two definitions as this game comes after regular season and determines what team will move on further into the championship contests. (I would consider the first definition to be much more appropriate in a sport like golf.)

Thus, if playoffs occur after the end of a season, this would also indicate that they are a part of “postseason” play. Again, this would make sense with Merriam-Webster as they call the postseason:

a period of time immediately after the regular season when teams play against each other in a series of games to determine a champion

But, does it really?

Many people- including the MLB themselves- consider the Wild Card game to be a “play-in” game.

Now, how can that make any sense if they’re already in the playoffs and postseason? Calling this a play-in game makes it sound like this is a game to get played to get into the playoffs/postseason, not that it is part of the playoffs/postseason themselves. Unfortunately, Merriam-Webster does not have a definition we can use for this, however Wikipedia does describe a “play-in game” as:

a game at the beginning of a tournament that forces the lowest qualifiers for the tournament to play each other before the main portion of the tournament begins.

Though, Wikipedia makes sure to indicate above their definition/topic sentence that a “play-in game” is not to be confused with a “one-game playoff”. Thus, we stumble further down the rabbit hole, as Wikipedia goes on to call a “one-game playoff”:

A one-game playoff, sometimes known as a pennant playoff, tiebreaker game or knockout game, is a tiebreaker in certain sports—usually but not always professional—to determine which of two teams, tied in the final standings, will qualify for a post-season tournament.

Which they then go even further to explain that:

This is distinguished from the more general usage of the term “playoff”, which refers to the postseason tournament itself.

So, can you understand my confusion?

The “playoffs” are the same thing as the “postseason”, though a “one-game playoff” is not a part of the “postseason” as the winner will qualify for the “postseason”, while at the same point the “one-game playoff” is a “play-in game” that occurs at the beginning of the tournament, which indicates that it is part of the “playoff tournament” and thus the “playoffs”.

It’s extremely logical in its illogic.

So, where does the Wild Card game fit into all of this?

I’m going to adopt a Schrödinger’s cat model to the Wild-Card game.

It is both the playoffs and not the playoffs. That’s because it occurs after the regular season has concluded and has no effect on a teams regular season standing, but it is not a part of the postseason. It lives within itself as its own entity.

The Wild Card game is both a beautiful game that I will enjoy, though it’s also the most stressful and worst thing ever imagined. So, why can’t it be both the playoffs and not the playoffs?

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