Major League Baseball's playoff format has come under scrutiny this October, particularly the time off given to the two top teams in each league. At least one member of the Atlanta Braves, MLB's best team during the regular season, isn't willing to blame the format or the rust factor for his team's recent defeat in the National League Division Series versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
"The people trying to use the playoff format to make an excuse for the results they don't like are not confronting the real issue," Strider told reporters. "You're in control of your focus, your competitiveness, your energy. If having five days means you can't make the adjustment, you have nobody to blame but yourself."
The Braves, for reference, wrapped up their regular season slate on Sunday, Oct. 1. They did not play their first playoff game until Oct. 7. The Braves did host a number of intrasquad scrimmages during that time. It's unclear if the majors' best offense would have fared better without any rest period.
The Braves certainly aren't alone in wondering about that. Three of the four teams who received first-round byes this fall -- the Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles -- were eliminated in the divisional round. The Dodgers and Orioles were both swept. Those were the only three teams this season who won more than 100 regular season contests. (The Astros, the other team to receive a bye, will compete in the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers beginning Sunday.)
Last year, two of the four teams who had a first-round bye reached the LCS round, with the Astros going on to win the World Series.
"I don't think that five days is ideal, but that's the playoff structure," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters this week. "The world's not perfect. A couple-day break would have been nice. But five's a little ..."
This is the second year this version of the playoff format has been used. MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to expand the postseason to 12 teams as part of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. As such, commissioner Rob Manfred does not seem open to the idea of making tweaks already.
"It's only Year 2," Manfred told ESPN on Thursday. "I'm sort of of the view you need to give something a chance to work out. I know some of the higher-seeded teams didn't win. I think if you think about where some of those teams were, there are other explanations than a five-day layoff. But I think we'll reevaluate in the offseason like we always do and think about if we have the format right."