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October is earned

| Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This week marks the beginning of the 2017 MLB postseason, and if it’s anything like the regular season, we’re in for some amazing baseball. For just the sixth time in the over 100-year history of the MLB, three teams had a 100-win season — the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland also managed to put together a 22-game win streak, something that has never been done before in American League history. Yankee right fielder Aaron Judge hit 52 home runs in his rookie season, a new MLB record.

But these accomplishments mean little come October. There’s something very different about the postseason. Game models and systems that worked all season can become completely obsolete. Save for home field advantage, a team’s regular season performance doesn’t matter when the playoffs start. The 10 teams lucky enough to make it in start with a clean slate, a blank record that will soon be filled with stories of October glories and, for some, failures.

The MLB is using the slogan “October is Earned” in advertising the postseason this year — and it couldn’t be more true. There are no flukes in baseball. You can’t sneak into the playoffs. It’s not like hockey or basketball where over half the league makes it. And it’s not like football where 16 games decide who will move on to the playoffs. No, the baseball season is long — 162 games long. It stretches from the beginning of spring to the beginning of autumn, from rainy days in April through sweltering games in August to chilly September nights. If a team makes it through this long season, if they can beat their division and obtain a spot in the postseason, it’s because they earned it. It’s because they proved themselves over the course of 162 games, proved that they have what it takes to play in October

I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life, but I didn’t get to go to my first playoff game until last year. It was Game 2 of the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs versus the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible. There were 35,000 fanatics standing on their feet for the entire game, shouting for the Cubs and hoping for the chance to win their first World Series since 1908. Every one of us in attendance hung on edge, waiting for every pitch. I’m about the farthest thing from a Cubs fan, but even I found it hard to not sing along to “Go Cubs Go.”

If you’re not a baseball fan, if you think it’s too boring or too complicated to follow, I’m going to ask you to give it one more chance this October. I’ll be the first to admit that regular season can at times be a little tedious (I sometimes struggle to sit through a game in May, too). But there’s something special about the postseason. The players, the managers and the fans bring an energy and an enthusiasm that elevates the stakes of the game and makes into a completely different experience. The Rockies, the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Nationals, the Red Sox, the Astros, the Indians, the Twins, and the Yankees have won their spots in the postseason. They toiled through a six-month long, 162-game season to get to this point. They all had one goal in mind, they all sought to arrive at the same place — October. Now, they’ll all compete for an even more exclusive prize of baseball, the World Series. Only one of them can win, and something tells me it’s not going to be my Yankees, but I can’t wait to watch it all unfold. October is earned, and whatever happens this postseason, these teams more than earned it.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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