Not so this season.
Every division in the National League remained up for grabs entering Thursday's games, and the NL Wild Card chase is looking like it'll go down to the wire. The four American League teams are set, with the Yankees locking down the last available playoff berth on Wednesday. Meanwhile, they and the other three clubs -- the Indians, Angels and Red Sox, oh my! -- are battling for the perks that come with having the best record in the league.
Clear? Yeah, like the Everglades. If you've been whipping around the Internet trying to figure out what's going to happen in the various tiebreaker scenarios still in play, your head's probably spinning like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist."
Fear not, faithful fans. This is your one-stop shop. All you need to do is read on, check back daily if you'd like, and focus on keeping the pea soup down.
Unless the Red Sox and Yankees suffer epic collapses in the next five days, Boston, with a three-game lead through Wednesday, will win the East. But ...
If the Red Sox and Yankees finish the regular season tied: The Yankees will be declared the division winners based on their 10-8 advantage over the Red Sox in their season series.
That's significant, because the two AL division winners with the highest winning percentages will have home-field advantage in their respective ALDS. But what about the new wrinkle that gives the team with the best winning percentage in the league the option of starting its first-round series on Wednesday or Thursday? The teams that start Wednesday get an extra day off, thereby ensuring that each team's top two starters will be available twice.
If the Indians and Red Sox finish in a tie: Boston, which beat Cleveland, 5-2, in the season series, gets the nod.
If the Indians and Angels finish in a tie: The teams split 10 games during the regular season, so it'll go to the second tiebreaker, based on division records. The Indians are currently 46-23 (.667) against the AL Central and the Angels are 30-24 (.555) against the AL West, so the advantage would go to the Tribe.
If the Red Sox and Angels finish in a tie: Advantage, Boston, based on winning six of 10 against the Halos this season.
If the Indians, Angels and Red Sox all finish in a tie: The top seed would go to the team with the best record against both of the other division champions, and Boston holds that hammer.
The Red Sox went 5-2 vs. the Indians and 6-4 vs. the Angels (11-6 overall).
The Indians went 2-5 vs. the Red Sox and 5-5 vs. the Angels (7-10 overall).
The Angels went 4-6 vs. the Red Sox and 5-5 vs. the Indians (9-11 overall).
Then, in order to break the tie between the Indians and the Angels, it reverts back to the season series between the teams, which we've already told you was tied, and the Indians would again win the second tiebreaker based on division records.
And in case you're wondering, the Yankees went 6-0 vs. the Indians and 3-6 vs. the Angels (9-6 overall), so if they managed to sneak into a four-way tie for best overall record, they'd be the top seed because they have that division hammer on the Red Sox.
|NL EAST |
| Mets @ Phillies|
|NL CENTRAL |
| Brewers @ Cubs|
|NL WEST |
| Padres @ D-backs|
| Rockies @ D-backs|
| Rockies @ Padres|
|NL WILD CARD |
| Phillies @ Padres|
| Padres @ Rockies|
| Phillies @ Rockies|
| Mets @ Rockies|
| Padres @ Mets|
| D-backs @ Mets|
| D-backs @ Phillies|
| D-backs @ Rockies|
| D-backs @ Padres|
Entering play Thursday, the Padres led the Phillies and Rockies by a game in the Wild Card; the Mets led the Phillies by a game in the East; the Cubs led the Brewers by two games in the Central; and the Diamondbacks led the Padres by one in the West.
Here's where everything's muy murky, but we're here to help. The information provided below is based on the results of "Flip Friday," Sept. 7, when coins were tossed to determine who'll play where in a variety of scenarios.
If the Mets and Phillies finish tied atop the East: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at Philly's Citizens Bank Park.
If the Cubs and Brewers finish in a tie atop the Central: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at Chicago's Wrigley Field.
If the D-backs and Padres finish in a tie atop the West: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at Arizona's Chase Field.
If the D-backs and Rockies finish in a tie atop the West: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at Chase.
If the Rockies and Padres finish in a tie atop the West: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at San Diego's PETCO Park.
If the Padres and Phillies finish in a tie for the Wild Card: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at PETCO.
If the Padres and Rockies finish in a tie for the Wild Card: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at Colorado's Coors Field.
If the Phillies and Rockies finish in a tie for the Wild Card: A one-game playoff will be played Monday at Coors.
It's also possible that more than one game will be needed to break a tie.
If the Padres, Rockies and Phillies finish in a three-way tie for the Wild Card: The head-to-head records among the three teams would be used to designate each club as A, B or C. The club with the best record would have the first choice, the club with the second best record would have the second choice, and the club with the worst record among the three would get the remaining option.
The Phillies went 4-3 vs. the Padres and 3-4 vs. the Rockies (7-7 overall).
The Rockies went 10-8 vs. the Padres and 4-3 vs. the Phillies (14-11 overall).
The Padres went 8-10 vs. the Rockies and 3-4 vs. the Phillies (11-14 overall).
Thus, the Rockies would have the first choice to be designated as club A, B or C. The Phillies would have the second choice. The Padres would get the remaining option, and the games would then be played as follows: A hosts B on Monday, with the winner hosting C on Tuesday.
Wasn't that painless? No? Just be glad you're not one of these teams' traveling secretary.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.