"The Mitten" is a children's book based on a Ukrainian folk tale. As the story begins, a young boy drops one of his wool mittens as he walks home through the snow.
No, that's not meant as a spoof on "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Read on:
A mole discovers the mitten and climbs inside for warmth. A rabbit follows suit. So do a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox and a bear. As you can imagine, the mitten becomes stretched beyond its capacity.
No, this isn't a metaphor for Pablo Sandoval's nutritional regimen. Read on:
Eventually the bear sneezes. The animals fly from the mitten, which is now misshapen and useless. Clearly you now recognize this as a comment on the proposed expansion of baseball's playoffs.
Having found no resistance to the idea, commissioner Bud Selig has said baseball "will move ahead, and move ahead pretty quickly" to add a second wild-card team in each league, increasing the number of playoff teams from eight to 10.
The suggestion is in part a reaction to this year's AL East non-race between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. With both teams guaranteed playoff spots--one as a wild card--there was little incentive for either to tax itself in the season's final weekend in pursuit of a division title.
A second wild card would have created a battle between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox for the second wild-card spot, and perhaps even created clenched-cheeks urgency for the Rays and the Yankees, given that one proposal calls for the two wild cards to stage a one-game playoff to see which advances to the division series.
Three problems with that. One, we lost you at "clenched-cheeks," didn't we? Like a poorly conceived TV game show, this system requires too much thinking.
Two, while an extra wild-card team might have spiced up the American League playoff race this season, it would have killed the delicious final weekend in the National League. That came down to the final day with three teams--the Giants, the San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves--vying for two spots. It wouldn't have been half the fun if all had been guaranteed playoff berths.
And, three, the first loser of a one-game play-in game is going to complain so loudly that it surely will become a three-game miniseries. Given travel considerations, that's at least five more days built into a schedule that already looks like the overstuffed wool mitten.
Forget shortening the regular season; neither owners nor players want to lose the revenue. So, as with our Ukrainian folk tale, baseball just keeps trying to stuff more season into a calendar that is bursting at the seams.
Anyone else feel a sneeze coming on?