Previous playoffs under the new format

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Previous playoffs under the new format

If a one-game wild card playoff existed going all the way back to 1995 -- when the wild card was introduced -- what would've changed?

For one, Boston would've made the playoffs more -- three times, to be exact. But the teams that would've benefited the most from this setup are Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, all of which would've reached the post-season (or a play-in game to the post-season) four times in years they didn't have the best non-division-winning record.

And while the knee-jerk reaction to this system is that it benefits Boston and New York, had it been implemented for the past 17 seasons, both those teams would've stood to lose more than they could've gained. Here's the complete breakdown for both leagues dating back to 1995:

American League

2011: Tampa Bay (91-71) vs. Boston (90-72)
Tampa BayBoston vs. Texas
New York vs. Detroit

2010: New York (95-67) Boston (89-73)
New YorkBoston vs. Minnesota
Tampa Bay vs. Texas

2009: Boston (95-67) vs. Texas (87-75)
If Boston wins: New York vs. Minnesota, Los Angeles vs. Boston
If Texas wins: New York vs. Texas, Los Angeles vs. Minnesota

2008: Boston (95-67) vs. New York (89-73)
BostonNew York vs. Los Angeles
Tampa Bay vs. Chicago

2007: Detroit (88-74) vs. Seattle (88-74); DetroitSeattle vs. New York (94-68)
If Detroit wins: Boston vs. Detroit, Cleveland vs. Los Angeles
If Seattle wins: Boston vs. Seattle, Cleveland vs. Los Angeles
If New York wins: Boston vs. Los Angeles, Cleveland vs. New York

2006: Detroit (95-67) vs. Chicago (90-72)
DetroitChicago vs. New York
Minnesota vs. Oakland

2005: Boston (95-67) vs. Cleveland (93-69)
If Boston wins: White Sox vs. Boston, Los Angeles vs. New York
If Cleveland wins: White Sox vs. New York, Cleveland vs. Los Angeles

2004: Boston (98-64) vs. Oakland (91-71)
If Boston wins: New York vs. Minnesota, Boston vs. Anaheim
If Oakland wins: New York vs. Oakland, Minnesota vs. Anaheim

2003: Boston (95-67) vs. Seattle (93-69)
If Boston wins: New York vs. Minnesota, Boston vs. Oakland
If Seattle wins: New York vs. Seattle, Minnesota vs. Oakland

2002: Boston (93-69) vs. Seattle (93-69), BostonSeattle vs. Anaheim (99-63)
If Boston wins: New York vs. Minnesota, Boston vs. Oakland
If Seattle wins: New York vs. Seattle, Minnesota vs. Oakland
If Anaheim wins: New York vs. Anaheim, Minnesota vs. Oakland

2001: Oakland (102-60) vs. Minnesota (85-77)
If Oakland wins: New York vs. Oakland, Cleveland vs. Seattle
If Minnesota wins: New York vs. Cleveland, Minnesota vs. Seattle

2000: Seattle (91-71) vs. Cleveland (90-72)
If Seattle wins: White Sox vs. Seattle, New York vs. Oakland
If Cleveland wins: White Sox vs. New York, Oakland vs. Cleveland

1999: Boston (94-68) vs. Oakland (87-75)
If Boston wins: New York vs. Texas, Cleveland vs. Boston
If Oakland wins: New York vs. Oakland, Cleveland vs. Texas

1998: Boston (92-70) vs. Toronto (88-74)
New York vs. Texas
Cleveland vs. BostonToronto

1997: New York (96-66) vs. Anaheim (84-78)
If New York wins: Baltimore vs. Cleveland, New York vs. Seattle
If Anaheim wins: Baltimore vs. Anaheim, Cleveland vs. Seattle

1996: Seattle (85-77) vs. White Sox (85-77); SeattleWhite Sox vs. Boston (85-77); SeattleWhite SoxBoston vs. Baltimore (88-74)
If the White Sox win: Cleveland vs. New York, White Sox vs. Texas
If Seattle wins: Cleveland vs. Seattle, New York vs. Texas
If Boston wins: Cleveland vs. Boston, New York vs. Texas
If Baltimore wins: Cleveland vs. Baltimore, New York vs. Texas

1995: New York (79-65) vs. California (78-67)
If California wins: Cleveland vs. California, Boston vs. Seattle
If New York wins: Cleveland vs. New York, Boston vs. Seattle

Oakland went 91-70, but we're assuming they played game 162 and won it.
Seattle went 85-76, to make things fun we're assuming they lost game 162.

National League

2011: St. Louis (90-72) vs. Atlanta (89-73)
If St. Louis wins: Philadelphia vs. St. Louis, Milwaukee vs. Arizona
If Atlanta wins: Milwaukee vs. Atlanta, Philadelphia vs. Arizona

2010: Atlanta (91-71) vs. San Diego (90-72)
If Atlanta wins: Philadelphia vs. Cincinnati, San Francisco vs. Atlanta
If San Diego wins: Philadelphia vs. San Diego, San Francisco vs. Cincinnati

2009: Colorado (92-70) vs. San Francisco (88-74)
ColoradoSan Francisco vs. Philadelphia, St. Louis vs. Los Angeles

2008: Milwaukee (90-72) vs. New York (89-73)
If Milwaukee wins: Chicago vs. Los Angeles, Philadelphia vs. Milwaukee
If New York wins: Chicago vs. New York, Philadelphia vs. Los Angeles

2007: Colorado (89-73) vs. San Diego (89-73) note: this game actually happened
Philadelphia vs. Colorado
Chicago vs. Arizona

2006: San Diego (88-74) vs. Los Angeles (88-74) For west title, loser plays WC play-in, for simplicity's sake we'll say the Padres win; Los Angeles vs. Philadelphia (85-77)
If Los Angeles wins: New York vs. Los Angeles, San Diego vs. St. Louis
If Philadelphia wins: New York vs. St. Louis, San Diego vs. Philadelphia

2005: Houston (89-73) vs. Philadelphia (88-74)
If Houston wins: St. Louis vs. San Diego, Atlanta vs. Houston
If Philadelphia wins: St. Louis vs. Philadelphia, San Diego vs. Atlanta

2004: Houston (92-70) vs. San Francisco (91-71)
If Houston wins: St. Louis vs. Los Angeles, Atlanta vs. Houston
If San Francisco wins: St. Louis vs. San Francisco, Atlanta vs. Los Angeles

2003: Florida (91-71) vs. Houston (87-75)
If Florida wins: Chicago vs. Atlanta, San Francisco vs. Florida
If Houston wins: Atlanta vs. Houston, Chicago vs. San Francisco

2002: San Francisco (95-66) vs. Los Angeles (92-70)
San FranciscoLos Angeles vs. Atlanta
St. Louis vs. Arizona

2001: St. Louis (93-69) vs. San Francisco (90-72)
If St. Louis wins: Houston vs. Atlanta, St. Louis vs. Arizona
If San Francisco wins: Houston vs. San Francisco, Atlanta vs. Arizona

2000: New York (94-68) vs. Los Angeles (86-76)
If New York wins: St. Louis vs. Atlanta, New York vs. San Francisco
If Los Angeles wins: St. Louis vs. Los Angeles, Atlanta vs. San Francisco

1999: New York (96-66) vs. Cincinnati (96-66) note: this game actually happened
Atlanta vs. Houston
New York vs. Arizona

1998: Chicago (89-73) vs. San Francisco (89-73) note: this game actually happened
Atlanta vs. Chicago
Houston vs. San Diego

1997: New York (88-74) vs. Los Angeles (88-74); New YorkLos Angeles vs. Florida (92-70)
If New YorkFlorida wins: Atlanta vs. Houston, San Francisco vs. New YorkFlorida
If Los Angeles wins: Atlanta vs. Los Angeles, San Francisco vs. Houston

1996: Los Angeles (90-72) vs. Montreal (88-74)
If Los Angeles wins: Atlanta vs. Los Angeles, San Diego vs. St. Louis
If Montreal wins: Atlanta vs. St. Louis, San Diego vs. Montreal

1995: Colorado (77-67) vs. Houston (76-68)
If Colorado wins: Cincinnati vs. Los Angeles, Atlanta vs. Colorado
If Houston wins: Atlanta vs. Houston, Cincinnati vs. Los Angeles

By the numbers

The top teams in the American League would've been adversely affected by this policy. Over 17 seasons, the average win disparity between the top two non-division winning teams is 5.53, with gulfs as big as 17 (2002) and 12 (1997).

But in the National League, there's not as much of a disparity. Three of these 17 hypothetical games actually took place in real life, while the average win disparity was only 2.18.

As stated earlier, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco would've stood to benefit the most from this setup. Here's how the additional playoff appearance (or appearance in a play-in game for the playoffs) list shakes out:

4: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle
3: Boston
2: Anaheim, Chicago (AL), Cleveland, Houston, Oakland, San Diego
1: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minnesota, Montreal, New York (AL), New York (NL), Philadelhpia, Texas, Toronto

As for wild card winners under the old format, Boston would've stood to lose the most under the new system. The Red Sox won the wild card seven times since it was introduced in 1995, while the Yankees took it four times. In the National League, Colorado won it three times while Florida, Houston, Los Angeles and New York won it twice.

So maybe this policy isn't as tailored to the Red Sox and Yankees as much as we think. Sure, Boston could've made an additional three playoff appearances, but there also would've been seven opportunities for them to be knocked out in one game by a lesser team.

Javier Baez becoming a game-changer for Cubs on defense and offense

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Javier Baez becoming a game-changer for Cubs on defense and offense

PITTSBURGH – When Javier Baez made his splashy debut in August 2014, it symbolized how much the Cubs wanted to sell the future and change the conversation after another selloff at the trade deadline. 

But it also makes a statement when Javy Being Javy starts to live up to the hype – and create a highlight reel – only as a role player. That’s one takeaway from the defensive clinic Baez put on at third base during this three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates that ended with Wednesday’s 6-2 win at PNC Park.   

“It’s a crazy situation here with the talent we have,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said, “and Javy at times being overlooked and not necessarily in the starting lineup every day. To have a guy like that with probably some of the best hands in all of baseball off the bench (is) a luxury that we’re happy to have. He’s a special talent.”

A natural shortstop, Baez has a unique ability to read the ball off the bat, but he’s also realized the value of sitting back and waiting at third base. Baez writes and eats left-handed and uses that as his dominant side, which helps him get into such an easy defensive flow. Even more than Addison Russell, Baez has the classic, big arm you’re looking for in a prototypical shortstop.    

“You’re crazy,” Arrieta told Baez on Tuesday night after watching the third baseman react to a John Jaso check swing in the sixth inning, charging to the edge of the infield grass, grabbing the ball with his bare hand and making a fluid throw to first base for the out.

Baez made it look easy again in the seventh inning, going to his backhand on a David Freese chopper up the third-base line, planting his right foot on the edge of the outfield grass and unleashing a laser throw to first base. 

Baez got Freese again in the ninth inning, making a charging backhanded play look routine and reinforcing why manager Joe Maddon sees him as such a weapon.

“You can actually say without stretching things way too far that he’s one of the best infielders in the National League – and he doesn’t start,” Maddon said. “Just purely as a defensive, groundball, infield-acumen kind of player, he’s one of the best in the league right now. Period. 

“So we just got to find an opportunity for him. His bat continues to make progress. I absolutely feel great when he’s out there on defense, because he can really impact a game in a positive way.”

With a 3-for-5, two-RBI afternoon on Wednesday, Baez pushed his average to .341, showing that he’s not the same all-or-nothing hitter who struck out 95 times and put up nine homers in 52 games in 2014.  

“When I got called up, I was hot with the bat, but I knew it wasn’t me,” Baez said. “It wasn’t my swing. I’m finally feeling really good at the plate and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Whether that means bumping Kris Bryant to the outfield more often or becoming that Ben Zobrist super-utility guy or filling in for the next injured player, right now it looks like the Cubs made the right choice in holding onto Baez and not packaging him in a deal for a pitcher.       

“You have not only a guy that can play the hell out of some infield,” pitcher Jon Lester said, “but he also gives you another guy at the bottom end of that lineup that has some thump. You make a mistake and this guy can take you back.”

Credit Baez for making those adjustments at the plate, smoothing out some of his rougher edges and realizing that for now this is his path to sticking in The Show.   

“I’ve been showing how much I’ve been growing up and my discipline at the plate,” Baez said. “My mind is all over the place with the positions, but I don’t have any problems playing it. I think I’m doing a pretty good job playing defense.”

Tonight on CSN: Cubs battle Harper, Nationals

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Tonight on CSN: Cubs battle Harper, Nationals

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals on Thursday night, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies at 7:05 p.m.

Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.52) vs. Joe Ross (3-0, 0.79)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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Cubs' Anthony Rizzo joins forces with Andrew Luck, Mike Trout to endorse sports drink

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Cubs' Anthony Rizzo joins forces with Andrew Luck, Mike Trout to endorse sports drink

Anthony Rizzo is branching out from his Bryzzo campaign to endorse a sports drink.

The Cubs star first baseman is part of an endorsement deal with BodyArmor, a sports drink brand. 

Rizzo's ads will appear in Chicagoland stores plus digital and social media circles, according to Sports Business Daily. He will also make public appearances to help promote the brand.

BodyArmor's other endorsers include Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and golfer Dustin Johnson, aka Wayne Gretzky's son-in-law.

With enormous expectations and now a ridiculous 20-6 record to back it, the Cubs' inboxes have to be overflowing with marketing requests.

Beyond Bryzzo and Rizzo's new drink campaign, the Cubs first baseman also his cereal while Joe Maddon is doing commercials in the Chicagoland area for Binny's, Jake Arrieta is both an underwear model and a suit model and Kris Bryant has his Express billboards.

Yeah, it's a good time to be a Cub.