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One-game wild-card playoffs: Dramatic, but fair?

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One-game wild-card playoffs: Dramatic, but fair?

By sometime Friday night, either Chipper Jones will be out of baseball or the defending World Series champion Cardinals will be out of the playoffs.

One and done.

A pair of wild-card matchups - St. Louis at Atlanta, then Baltimore at Texas - to decide which teams advance to the next round. Part of the new, expanded postseason format, where 162 games, six months of grinding and upward of 50,000 pitches get boiled down to nine all-or-nothing innings.

Dramatic? Certainly. Fair? Well, depends on who you ask.

``I hate it. I'm old-school. I'm old,'' Washington manager Davey Johnson said.

At 69, he has a vested interest. His NL East champion Nationals will visit the Cardinals-Braves winner Sunday in Game 1 of the division series.

``I love it,'' Cleveland closer Chris Perez said. ``If you are in it, or watching it as a fan, it doesn't get any more exciting.''

Or, as Texas general manager Jon Daniels summed up on the eve of his team's big game: ``I'll let you know tomorrow.''

Clearly, several sides to this debate.

Major League Baseball hoped to get more clubs involved in postseason races, and the Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Rays and Pirates were among those that enjoyed the chase this year.

There also was some sentiment that wild-card teams were getting it too easy and winning the World Series too often, as the Cardinals did last season. By adding an extra playoff club in each league and then forcing it to play in a winner-take-all game, it could make the path tougher.

That's OK by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team clinched the majors' final playoff spot this year.

``We're ecstatic. We'd be home right now. We'd be spectators, so we're exceptionally happy about the format,'' he said.

``The fact that we have to use up a pitcher, it makes sense to me. I believe the team that wins the division ought to have an advantage. I think it's been well done,'' he said.

On the other hand, a club that runs into the wrong pitcher could be eliminated in a hurry.

``I think for teams like Atlanta - who had an unbelievable year, and it could be ruined by one game - it's probably unfair,'' Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche said.

``Now, in one game, any given day, a college team could beat a big league team. It's just the way the ball rolls. So I don't know how much one game proves as far as who deserves to move on,'' he said. ``You almost have to do it two out of three. But then you get other teams sitting around for a week. So I don't know the right way to do it.''

Braves second baseman Dan Uggla isn't a fan.

``I'm not for this new playoff thing at all,'' he said. ``They're kind of messing things up for everybody.''

This could be the last game for Uggla's star teammate, with Jones set to retire at age 40.

Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones also is in jeopardy. His team returns to the postseason for the first time since 1997, but could be ousted before it gets a home playoff game.

``I'm sure there are some people in Baltimore that are frustrated. Of course you want Camden Yards rocking,'' he said.

``This is the situation we put ourselves in. We're happy to be in the situation, and we're going to take full advantage of the opportunity,'' he said.

This is not the first time a whole season has come down to one game.

Baseball history is filled with thrilling one-game playoffs - the Bucky Dent home run in 1978, Matt Holliday heading home in the 13th inning in 2007, among others. But those came about naturally, tiebreakers forced by final-day developments.

Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire is the only person to manage two one-game division tiebreakers, losing 1-0 to the Chicago White Sox in 2008, then beating Detroit 6-5 in 12 innings the following year.

``When we won Game 163 against Detroit, that was probably one of the funnest times I've had on a baseball field,'' he said. ``After everything you've been through to go and play and get one chance and lose 1-0 was really heartbreaking.

``And you're going to see that this year. You go through a whole big battle like they've gone through down the end with every game, every inning, every pitch meaning something and then you get one game? Somebody is going to go, `We did all that for this?'''

The NFL is set up for one-and-dones. The NBA and NHL play a series in the postseason. So did baseball - best-of-five, best-of-seven - until adding this mini-round.

``I wish it was a three-game playoff,'' Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. ``I've clinched and I wait for you and you just got here, and one game, anybody can win, and I'm done? I wish they would cut the season to 159 and play three games. A lot of people would love that.''

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria agreed that one game makes things difficult. Yet after the Rays were eliminated in the final days, he'd gladly trade places with Texas or Baltimore.

``I'd take their situation over ours any day. They're in the postseason,'' he said.

Slugger Adam Dunn would like the chance for one more swing, too, after his White Sox were overtaken by Detroit in the AL Central. Still, one game is rugged for anyone.

``I can see from a fan's perspective, but from a player's perspective I can't imagine liking it,'' Dunn said. ``I don't like it. I don't think it's fair.''

No matter, it's a new era in baseball. Oakland general manager Billy Beane can accept that, and sees all sides to the fresh playoff format.

``Yeah, listen, it's great and it's terrible all in the same sentence,'' he said.

---

AP Sports Writers Paul Newberry, Howard Fendrich, Stephen Hawkins, Janie McCauley, Steven Wine and Fred Goodall, and AP freelance writers Mark Didtler, Chuck Murr, Ian Harrison and Steve Herrick contributed to this report.

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How former Orioles players fared in the 2018 MLB Postseason

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How former Orioles players fared in the 2018 MLB Postseason

The Baltimore Orioles were historically awful in 2018. The Orioles were eliminated from the A.L. title race on Aug. 10 and eliminated from playoff contention Aug. 20. Since the divisional era began in 1969, no team has been eliminated from postseason contention as early as the 2018 Orioles were.

The 2018 season was downright awful for the Orioles. Manny Machado was traded to the Dodgers. Chris Davis, who is set to receive $94 million over the next four years, had one of the worst seasons in MLB history.

Baltimore fans knew very early that a trip to the 2018 MLB Postseason was not going to happen. But because the Orioles traded away such a sizable chunk of its roster, fans actually had a better opportunity to see their favorite players in the postseason.

How did the former Orioles players do in the 2018 MLB Postseason? Glad you asked.

Atlanta Braves

Brad Brach (2014-2018): Continuing off of a regular season in which he struggled, Brach was unable to turn it around in the postseason. He gave up two walks and two hits in an 1.1 innings (two games), allowing one run.

Kevin Gausman (2013-2018): Gausman came on in relief in Game 3, Atlanta's only win in the series, though Gausman didn't play a big role. He allowed two runs in two innings, off two hits and two walks (deuces are wild). He did strike out four though.

Ryan Flaherty (2012-2017): Ryan Flaherty had an uneventful October, as he only got two at-bats in the series, and he went 0-for-2.

Nick Markakis (2006-2014): The beloved Markakis' comeback season was a major reason for the Braves making it to the postseason, but he didn't do much with the opportunity. Markakis went 1-for-12, just a .083 batting average.

Boston Red Sox

Steve Pearce (2013-2016): Pearce's overall numbers don't jump off the page, but he's had quite the postseason. On numerous occasions, Pearce has come up with the big hit when needed. He's just 9-for-34, but hit one of the most critical home runs of the World Series when he tied the game off Kenley Jansen in the eigth inning of Game 4, and he started the scoring in Game 5 with a home run in the first inning off Clayton Kershaw.

Chicago Cubs

Pedro Strop (2011-2013): Strop pitched just one inning in the NL Wild Card game, allowing one hit and striking out two in the Cubs loss. 

Cleveland Indians

Andrew Miller (2014): Miller didn't have many leads to protect during the Astros' dominating performance against the Indians, and he pitched poorly when he actually got in the game. In 0.1 innings, Miller allowed one hit and walked three batters, which is unheard of for someone of Miller's talent.

Colorado Rockies

Gerardo Parra (2015): Parra reached base twice in the NL Wild Card game, walking once and recording a hit. He stayed hot in the NLCS against the Brewers, going 3-for-6 and scoring a run.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rich Hill (2009): It feels strange including Hill, given his minimal time in Baltimore (Justin Turner was left off the list for the same reason). He is technically a former Oriole, however. This postseason, Hill pitched 16.2 innings and allowed four earned runs. Hill was terrific in Game 4 with the Dodgers trying to tie up the World Series, allowing one hit, one run, and three walks whil striking out seven. The Dodgers lost the game, thanks in part to another former Oriole in Steve Pearce.

Manny Machado (2012-2018): You could write a dozen articles about Machado's postseason without even mentioning his on-field performance. Manny has taken a heel turn this October, becoming baseball's biggest postseason villain since Alex Rodriguez. There have been quesitonable slides, weird kicks and stomps while running to first, and even the occasional crotch grab. In terms of the games themselves, he's hit 15-for-62, though struggled in the World Series, being held without a single extra-base hit.

Milwaukee Brewers

Wade Miley (2016-2017): Miley has had an interesting postseason. He pitched well in his one NLDS start, going 4.2 scoreless innings (which is essentially a complete game in this era of pitching). He then started Game 5 in the NLCS and was pulled after just one batter, part of a strategic decision by the Brewers. He started again in Game 6. The Brewers lost Game 5, but he held his own the next day and the Brewers forced a Game 7. 

Jonathan Schoop (2013-2018): Schoop didn't get many chances this October, and he did literally nothing with them. He was 0-for-8 overall, and struck out three times.

New York Yankees

Zach Britton (2011-2018): Britton struggled in pinstripes, allowing two runs in his only inning pitched during the Wild Card Game. He fared better in the ALDS, allowing one run and three hits over the course of four innings across three games.

Oakland Athletics

Edwin Jackson (2017): Did not pitch.

 

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

Buck Showalter has been fired as manager of the Orioles, who made three playoff appearances under his guidance but this year staggered through the worst season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Showalter confirmed the dismissal Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press.

A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter ranks second on the Orioles' career list with 669 victories, trailing Earl Weaver. He took over in August 2010 and orchestrated the resurgence of a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.

Once hailed for making baseball in Baltimore relevant again, the 62-year-old Showalter is out of a job after a season in which the Orioles finished 47-115, 61 games behind Boston in the AL East. His contract expired at the end of October, and the Orioles opted against a renewal as they continue a major rebuild that began in late July, when they traded stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman for minor league prospects.

Those deals were made by Dan Duquette, the executive vice president of baseball operations, whose future with the organization is up in the air.

Showalter earned AL Manager of the Year honors in 2014 after taking the Orioles to the AL East title and a berth in the Championship Series. He was also named Manager of Year with the Yankees in 1994 and Texas in 2004. His career record is 1,551-1,517, including 669-684 with Baltimore.

"I just think ever since he came here, the franchise just gained a little more accountability, gained an edge for some time," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said before the final game of the season. "It's the end of an era. A great manager, a great tenure. I don't know if he's going to coach or manage again, but he's got grandchildren. Go golf. Relax and go sit on the golf course."

With his future in doubt, Showalter appeared undaunted during the final series of the regular season.

"You know how good they've been to me? I'm not ever going to forget that, regardless of what happens," he said.

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin was asked before his team's playoff game against the Yankees on Wednesday night whether Showalter was victimized by the trend toward analytics.

"I don't think Buck was a guy that ignored analytics," Melvin said. "I think it was probably a combination of how they did this year and maybe some relationships."

After the Orioles brought Showalter out of retirement, he offered renewed hope by fashioning a 34-23 finish in 2010 for a team that was 32-73 upon his arrival.

Baltimore ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2012, advancing to the AL Division Series following a victory over Texas in the wild-card game. Playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016 followed.

Last year, however, the Orioles fell to 75-87 after losing 19 of their final 23 games. Baltimore hoped the addition of starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would enable the team to be a contender this year, but a horrid start quickly dispelled that notion.

The Orioles' deficit in the AL East reached double digits by April 18 and they were 8-27 on May 8. By the end of July, Baltimore fully entered rebuilding mode, leaving Showalter with the dubious distinction of overseeing a team that finished with the poorest record in the majors and one that surpassed the 1939 St. Louis Browns for most losses in franchise history.

Showalter never offered an excuse. He just grinded forward, working to prepare the team for 2019 even though he knew he might not be around to follow through.

At the outset of a season-ending series against Houston, Showalter was asked if he was thinking these might be his final days in the Baltimore dugout.

"We all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don't think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," he said. "We've got some things to do these last four games that need to get done."

Showalter has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but his players appreciated his baseball knowledge and skill at handling a team. He made a point of talking to each of them on a regular basis, almost always offering encouragement.

"He gave me a chance," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who played six-plus years in the minors before arriving in Baltimore. "He believed in me in 2014, ran me out there and gave me a chance to be part of a championship team. He's really vouched for me ever since. I owe a lot to Buck and his loyalty. He's been a main figure here for a long time."

Sensing the end was near for the only big league manager he had ever played for, first baseman Trey Mancini said: "It's been an absolute honor to play for Buck. He's been incredible."