Under new postseason rules, Cubs would have won division in 2018

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Unfortunately, I had a front-row seat to the end of the 2018 Chicago Cubs. Well, maybe not front row, but I was in attendance for the team’s final three games that year: a Game 162 victory over the Cardinals that saw Joe Maddon’s club erase an early 2-0 deficit to force a Game 163 winner-take-all matchup against Milwaukee the next day, that heartbreaking loss to the Brew Crew – and then the ultimate dagger – a 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card game.

That was a whole lot of highs and lows in a three-game span – but under the new expanded postseason rules that eliminate Game 163 matchups altogether, things may have gone quite differently for Chicago.

Under these newly-defined rules, the tie between Milwaukee and the Cubs at the end of the regular season would have been decided by their head-to-head record against one another, where the Cubs held an 11-9 advantage. That means Chicago wins the NL Central and Milwaukee hosts the Wild Card game against Colorado to determine which team would play Chicago in the NLDS.

It’s wild to think about what might have been had this been the scenario that played out. Of course, we’re all well aware of the team’s offensive inconsistencies the team displayed late in the year: one day, they’d hang a crooked number on an opponent, the next, they’d barely manage to scratch out a lone tally.

Cubs: MLB expanded postseason will be in effect starting this season

During CBA discussions, we heard multiple proposals when it came to an expanded postseason – but MLB never got the MLBPA onboard with a 14-team format. Instead, 12 teams – six from each league – will now play in the postseason. Previously, 10 teams advanced to the postseason, but now 40 percent of the league will get to play October baseball.

That could be increasingly important to a team like the Cubs – who are attempting to balance a re-focusing on the future and replenishing the farm system with a desire to remain competitive under Jed Hoyer and recently-extended manager David Ross. There’s a decent shot that in the next few years, Chicago is one of those fringe teams and just maybe sneak into the postseason under the new rules.

So what do these new rules entail? The top two division winners get to watch the first-round from home, courtesy of a bye – with the lowest division winner squaring off in the Wild Card round along with three Wild Card teams. The team with the better record will host the entire three-game series and then the postseason would continue as we’ve known it in recent years (NLDS/NLCS/WS).

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Baseball – like most sports – are full of ‘what might have been’ pondering, and this certainly qualifies. Did the Cubs have one more October run in them back in 2018? Maybe – after all, they won 95 regular season games. Instead, they went cold on a chilly night at Wrigley, marking the beginning of the end of a dynasty that never came to be.