By Christopher Haft
Special to The Examiner
Evan Longoria said teams that excel during the regular season ought to receive more of an opportunity to thrive in the postseason.
Under the current format, teams that win 100 or more games could see their sustained effort dissolve into nothing with a loss in the Wild Card Game. The Division Series convergence of the Giants and Dodgers, who won 107 and 106 games respectively, prompted Longoria to express himself.
“I feel like this may also be like a series or a moment where baseball may have to think about restructuring the way that the playoffs happen,” the Giants third baseman said. “(Teams with) 106 and 107 wins doesn’t feel like a (Division Series) matchup, you know? Especially because the season is so long for two teams to win that many games and then one of them (has) to go home early.”
Asked how he would rectify the problem if he were commissioner for a day, Longoria said, “I don’t even really know. I just feel like there’s two teams that won this many games. It seems early to match up us two. But I’m always for having more teams in the playoffs. I think it engages more fan bases. Obviously we’ve had this discussion with the league before, and I think that is something that is always on the table.”
Longoria, 35, said he’s relishing his first postseason activity since 2013 with Tampa Bay, and he anticipated feeling jittery before Friday night’s Division Series opener.
“I think that that’s normal for anybody, whether you’ve been going every year or it’s your first time,” he said. “It’s a completely different thing from the regular season. It’s probably comparable to like, Opening Day, but every day. You have Opening Day again and again. We’re dealing with the media in here, which is completely different. We’re going to have two or three times the media on the field before games. It’s just like this whole other thing that happens in the postseason that, it’s enjoyable. It’s different. It’s a cool experience.”
The Giants believed in themselves as the season approached, Longoria said, but they had no idea they would be this good following last year’s COVID-truncated campaign.
“Going into the off-season with some of the pieces that we were losing, I mean, you never really know what’s going to happen,” Longoria said. “I felt like last year we had a really good shot, especially at the halfway point. I feel like every team felt like they had a shot last year. It was completely different. Then coming into this year and looking at 162-game season, I think through the first probably quarter of the season there was some question marks. We set out in the beginning of the spring to be a team that could win the division. … But sometimes you have to go out and do it to believe it, and I think once we started winning, that belief just grew and, I mean, it just kind of took on a life of its own.”
It helped that the Giants accepted they would have relatively few entrenched veterans and many younger performers who could play more than one position, he said.
“I think that that was something that we all knew was going to happen at the outset of the spring,” Longoria said. “There were very few positions that were set in stone, and so from the beginning, this group of 35, 40 guys has really just been able to kind of come together and kind of breathe that selflessness, knowing that like in the third or fourth or fifth inning you could be coming out and pinch hit for, and I think you see a lot of that success in the guys that were coming off the bench.
“… Our (batting) average off the bench, the guys that came in, was through the roof, just like preparedness from top to bottom all contributed to the winning and to the — kind of just the culture of the club.”
Chris Haft is a longtime baseball writer who covers the Giants for The Examiner.