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Whicker: Dodgers vs. Giants race dulled by wild card – Press-Enterprise


If this was a real pennant race, it wouldn’t be “winner-take-some.”

The Giants or the Dodgers would win the National League West, and the second-place team would begin its long, angry winter.

No wild-card teams, which were the brainchild of Hall of Fame commissioner Bud Selig, the man who tried to give us replacement players. No mulligans.

If the Giants and Dodgers wind up tied after next Sunday’s season finale, they will play a 163rd game, but only to determine tournament placement. The loser will have a date with the wild-card team, and the Dodgers and Giants could very well meet in a five-game Division Series.

Only once, since 1980, has a team won 100 regular-season games and missed the postseason. That was San Francisco in 1993, which won 103. The Braves staged a fiery comeback and passed the Giants for the National League West title, because the Dodgers finally won the fourth game of a four-game series to quash the Giants, and Tommy Lasorda and Co. celebrated like “The Price Is Right” winners.

Sure, it was a shame, but manager Dusty Baker and the Giants knew the game before it started. There were no calls for re-seeding, no emergency legislation. Instead, there were weeks of unparalleled tension in those pre-web days, waiting for news to travel from faraway stadiums.

The old-fashioned pennant race is a casualty of our excesses. Bucky Dent’s home run in Game No. 163 would not have been a civic cataclysm if it hadn’t ended Boston’s 1978 season, one in which the Red Sox had led by nine games on Aug. 13.

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If baseball is life and life is unfair, just follow the syllogism.

Seven wild-card teams have won World Series, including the 2002 Angels, who had won 99 regular-season games.

But no one imagined a situation like this, in which the Dodgers, 14 games better than St. Louis, could meet the Cardinals in a wild-card game on even terms. A bad hop or a blown popup or the edge of a laminated card slicing a pitcher’s eye after it falls out of his cap band.

Anything can happen. After 162 games, anything shouldn’t happen. What should happen is a postseason decided among winners.

This season has reminded us that the Dodgers and Giants basically exist to impede each other.

San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, back in the days of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, but they had not had a winning season since 2016, and everyone assumed they hadn’t yet put in the insulation or carpet in their rebuild project.

On Friday, the Giants won their 100th game and continued to lead the National League in home runs. They still were described as a fluke by Dodger fans who, because they have no grasp of irony, had forgotten that their heroes had won last year’s Series after an appetizer of a 60-game season.

A fluke is when you trip over the bathroom scale in your hotel room and you’re out for six weeks. A fluke is the Immaculate Reception.

Posey, Crawford and Belt have not been stuffed and mounted. Posey, 34, opted out last season but has come back to embellish his Hall of Fame case. Crawford, 34, has shown every characteristic of a Most Valuable Player. Belt, 33, hit his 27th home run Friday, nine more than his previous high.

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Giants management, led by President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, did not ship out the furniture. Rather, Zaidi used the tactics of the Dodgers, for whom he’d worked as Andrew Friedman’s assistant.

He built up the bench, to the point that San Francisco has 10 players with at least 10 home runs apiece. He deepened a bullpen that leads the NL in WHIP and keeps the ball on the ground. He, or someone, convinced Logan Webb to throw sliders and sinkers, and Webb became their best starter.

Zaidi also showed the capacity for knowing other teams’ resources better than they do. Lamonte Wade Jr. was idling in Minnesota’s system, and the Giants got him for Shaun Anderson. Wade is 11 for 19 in ninth innings and is hitting .385 with men in scoring position.



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