There's no such thing is backing into the playoffs in baseball.
Sure, some teams steam into the postseason, white-hot. Others limp — sometimes literally — to the finish line, scuffling, holding on for dear life to what they had built up over the previous five or six months. But nobody backs in.
The season is too long, the game itself far too difficult, for anyone to dilute or attempt to downplay the distinction of being one of only five teams in each league to have survived the grueling gauntlet that is Major League Baseball's regular season. Peaks and valleys are inherent in such a grind, and baseball, more than any other sport, does a great job of rewarding relatively sustained excellence.
Now, none of this changes the fact that the wild-card setup is an absolute joke. And it's a joke because the season is so long, and the game itself is so hard. Hell, even the sub-.500 dregs of the NBA's Eastern Conference get a seven-game series to prove whether or not they're worthy of advancing to the next round. The new reward for the relatively sustained excellence of baseball's wild-card teams is a glorified version of the NCAA's play-in game between Central Southeast Who? and Middle Northwest Nowhere Huh?
All of which should be no surprise to anyone given the knowledge that adding the second wild-card team was adding a brainchild of Bud Selig. The man is been baseball's commissioner forever, and if anything, his controversy-riddled reign represents the exact opposite of sustained excellence. He fancies himself the man who globalized the sport, yet many concepts, such as fairness and integrity, remain to Uncle Bud decidedly foreign.
But that's a rant for another day. Today's rant is not so much a rant, but a reminder to the should-be-grateful Giants and A's fans bummed about their teams' inability to hang on to their once-lofty status among the game's truly elite and when their respective division.
First of all, and quite important, there are no truly elite teams in baseball this year. Second, all it takes now is one more win to get to that deserved series that determines World Series worthiness. Combined, those two facts should give Giants and A's fans something the fans of 20 of the 30 teams in the game will not have at the end of today: hope.
Hope is not something you back into. Hope is something these two teams, through the many peaks and valleys, have earned. And it's something their fans should unconditionally embrace, cherish, and most important of all, celebrate.