Proponents of 7-game LDS Are Wrong

Should Major League baseball turn the League Division Series from a 5-game series into a 7-game series?

The question has been brought up in various segments on ESPN and some writers have opined on the idea, such as Hal Bodley: they think that a 5-game LDS series is too luck-based and suggest that a 7-game series is more fair in that bad teams can’t depend on absolute luck and advance to and potentially win the World Series, like the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s a hair-triggered reaction to the downfall of the Chicago Cubs, who were the National League’s best team almost all year, but have quickly fallen behind two games to none to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The Dodgers finished with a record 13 full games worse than the Cubs did, so the Dodgers obviously should never have been close to a victory. It’s not like they have good pitching and good hitting, right? I mean, who’s this Manny Ramirez guy, and what’s up with the other guy named Chad Billingsley?

Would a 7-game series really solve anything? The only thing it would accomplish is uniformity — the LDS would be just as long as the LCS and World Series. Given a larger sample size, of course, the effect of luck is diminished, but we’re only talking about two games.

Additionally, adding two games (likely three days if you include an off-day for travel) would mean that the World Series would finish in early November. Not that there’s a whole lot of difference between November 3 and October 31, but as they say, “if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile.” It’s just a precedent that needn’t be set.

The sudden cries for a 7-game LDS reminds me of when we as kids used to play Roshambo (Rock, Paper, Scissors) and whenever you beat your opponent in a best-of-three, he’d angrily ask for a best-of-five, then when you beat him again, he’d ask for a best-of-seven, and then a best-of-nine, and a best-of-eleven … until he finally won.

While I don’t think all of the sudden support for a 7-game LDS is due to pity for the Cubs, it’s hard to imagine that if the Cubs were up 2-0 on the Dodgers that there’d be any discussion on the matter. Oftentimes we root for the underdog, but for some reason, the top dog Cubs are getting a lot of support (likely due to their reputation and large fan base) and aren’t receiving too much criticism for their failures.

The Cubs aren’t going to lose the LDS due to bad luck; they simply played badly. Occam’s Razor, right? Kosuke Fukudome has been awful, similar to most of his 2008 regular season. The defense, especially in Game 2, looked worse than Little League-quality. The Dodgers’ pitching has been pretty damn good, a credit to Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley.

Do you really think that teams that have played the way the Cubs have played deserve more opportunities to advance in the post-season? The teams that play the best advance. What’s wrong with that?

I guess it’s just a bad concept when the plot doesn’t unfold exactly the way you want it to: the Cubs are the hapless lovable losers who are cursed by a goat, and this is their hundredth year without a World Series championship on their mantel. Wouldn’t it be great if the Cubs exorcised their demons the way the Boston Red Sox did in 2004, or the Chicago White Sox in 2005?

That’s life. Just because things don’t turn out the way you’d like doesn’t mean you can change the rules around. I can’t give myself authority to fire the person who got the promotion instead of me. I can’t edit my lottery numbers so that I won last week’s jackpot.

The call for an amendment to the current LDS set-up is infantile and unjustified. There may be legitimate arguments to be made for such an amendment, but all that has been presented thus far has been unwarranted, hair-triggered, emotional appeals for the Cubs.