The Detroit Tigers made to the World Series twice under Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski — in 2006 and 2012. Both times, they were unable to bring home a championship, losing in five games to the Cardinals in 2006 and getting swept by the Giants six years later.
Both times, the Tigers were coming off several days of rest after sweeping the ALCS. They swept the A's in 2006 and swept the Yankees in 2012.
One could argue that should have helped the Tigers, as they were well-rested heading into the World Series, while their opponents were not as rested. With a long season, one would think all that rest would be beneficial. But baseball is weird like that.
You see, because the Tigers hadn't seen live pitching or played in a live game setting in about a week both times, they came out rusty. Justin Verlander started game 1 in both series, and struggled both times. The offense couldn't get anything going in either game.
The Tigers got a masterful pitching performance from Kenny Rogers in game 2 in 2006, otherwise they could have been looking at a sweep there as well. When the series shifted to St. Louis, the Tigers started to struggle mightily on defense as well. It all made for a relatively short five-game series.
In 2012, the Tigers vaunted lineup suddenly just couldn't produce any runs. They started finding some rhythm in game 4, but by then it was too little, too late.
Now, over a decade later, we're seeing some similar results with other team in the postseason. Last year, MLB started a new playoff format with an expansion to 12 postseason teams. The Wild Card round went from one game to three, with the top two seeds in each league getting a bye to the Division Series.
That means four teams get almost a week off between the final game of the regular season and their first playoff game. The results have been shocking, depending on how you look at it.
Last season, the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers were easily the favorites in the National League. They both lost in the Division Series to Wild Card teams.
This season, it's been more of the same. The Balitmore Orioles, the Dodgers, and the Braves all lost game 1 in their respective series once again. The Orioles are currently down 2-0 to the Texas Rangers, and will be facing elimination as they series heads to Arlington. All three of those teams won 100 games or more in the regular season.
The Astros were the only team not to lose game 1, and this was the case last season as well. Of course, they didn't seem to have any issues at all with the long layoff last year, as they cruised through the postseason en route to winning the World Series.
Because of that, one might argue that because of the Astros' success, teams just need to play better and find a way to stay loose during the long break. The Orioles apparently did that, playing some intrasqaud games during their week off. However, they're still facing elimination tonight in Texas.
The most popular argument seems to be that the league needs to do something to address the long layoff for teams that clinch a bye in the playoffs. Perhaps they need to go back to the one-game playoff in the Wild Card round, or maybe get ride of the byes all together and have every team play in the first round.
But how would that have solved what happened to the Tigers in 2006 and 2012? Well, it really wouldn't have. You can't really tell a team to just not give their best effort in order to not sweep a series, especially in a playoff setting. Like Herm Edwards once said, you play to win the game.
Lastly, the playoffs are just a different animal that the regular season. The environment is so much different. You have to play your best game. The margin for error is so much smaller. There's no time for slumps. Because of that, upsets are going to happen.
Personally, I think parity is good for the league. In fact, I think it's good for all sports. I think everybody was sick of whatever team had Tom Brady as their quarterback winning the Super Bowl in the NFL. People are also starting to get sick of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
In baseball, people don't want to see the Yankees, the Astros, and to a lesser extent, the Dodgers, win the World Series. They'd rather see a non-tradtional powerhouse walk away with the Commissioner's Trophy at season's end. That's why you saw a lot of people cheering on the Diamondbacks on Saturday when they jumped all over Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
I don't know what the solution is. Maybe teams losing after long layoffs are just a coincidence. Or, maybe teams simply just need to play better. Again, upsets happen. They are a part of sports. It's part of what makes sports so great.
Are teams that have a bye to the Division Series at a disadvantage? Right now, it's hard to say.