Yesterday, on “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN, there was a comment to the effect that the Cubs and Dodgers would play each other in the first round if the playoffs were to start today.
The NL standings as of Saturday morning would have these 4 teams in the playoffs:
St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central Champs–.648 winning percentage)
Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West Champs–.593)
Atlanta Braves (NL East Champs–.565)
Chicago Cubs (Wild Card–.550)
I was of the impression that the division champ with the best record faces the wild card team in the first round. Is there rule about the playoff structure that shuffles the opponents so that two teams from the same division don’t face each other in the first round?
If so, any idea why such a rule exists? Is it an attempt to get heated rivalries into later rounds (assuming both teams make it past the first round)?
I remember that the wild card Red Sox played the division champ Yankees in the second round of the AL playoffs last year, but I don’t recall if the Yankees had the best overall record in the AL going into the playoffs.