Is the Wild Card game a playoff game?

This is an important philosophical question and I need your help.  Is the game Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are playing tonight a playoff game?  Or is it a game that determine who gets into the playoffs?

Clearly it’s a postseason game; that’s not at issue.  The question is whether it’s like the ALDS, or more like the Game 163 the Rangers and Rays played last night, which in my mind is clearly a postseason game but not a playoff game.

Related question:  is the play-in game for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament a game in the tournament, or a game determining who gets into the tournament?  (I think this is actually the same question but I’m open to persuasion on this point.)




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8 thoughts on “Is the Wild Card game a playoff game?

  1. Ø says:

    In the old days, pre-1969, before there were divisions, when the World Series was normally the only post-season play there was, there was occasionally a tiebreaker game for the pennant. Those tiebreaker games were called playoff games, and they were the only major league baseball games that were called playoff games. This does not answer your question, though.

    My question is, do we really like “postseason” as a noun? I’m comfortable with “postseason game” and “postseason play”, but a little bothered by “the postseason”. I know this is an affectation on my part.

  2. JSE says:

    I’m totally at ease with “the postseason” but I consider “3-RBI homer” an abomination.

  3. Yes, it’s a playoff game in the OED’s first sense of the word.

    play-off, n.

    1. A match or rematch played to decide a draw or tie.

    1895 Outing June 50/2 In the play-off for the championship of the city, the Sodality team won a bitterly contested game.
    1915 Literary Digest (N.Y.) 21 Aug. 361/1 The race with the Cubs was a tie at the end of the season and a play-off game was necessary to decide the pennant.

    The word “playoffs” (cue Jim Mora’s angry, incredulous voice) has come to refer to the *scheduled* postseason elimination rounds leading up the championship, but its roots are in the kind of game being played tonight.

    (cf. “runoff,” in the sense of “an election held to choose a winner when the previous election was inconclusive”)

  4. byesac says:

    I don’t know, but I’m glad the Dodgers played in the NL West this year.

  5. Matt says:

    They don’t need to be the same question; I think this is a question of convention that each league can answer, and the official answer tends to become common usage. Without Googling I think the official and common usage is:
    1. Baseball wild card games are part of the playoffs (Game 163s are not).
    2. The old NCAA “play-in game” was not a tournament game, but the new system calls the play-in games “Round 1” of the tournament and the actual round of 64 “Round 2.” No one uses those numbers but I think that makes the play-in games tournament games.

  6. Tom Scocca says:

    One difference: Monday’s game was treated as Game No. 163 of the regular season for roster purposes–the Rangers and Rays had their whole extended September horde of call-ups to work with. So had it turned into an extra-inning marathon, they could have played nigh indefinitely. For the wild-card game, they have to cut it to a postseason roster (albeit a weird one, because there’s no need to carry a rotation’s worth of starting pitchers).

  7. castover says:

    I would call it a “playoff playoff.”

    “The playoffs” as they existed before the wild-card game was a playoff to determine who was champion. This new game is a playoff to determine who has the “privilege” of competing to be champion, i.e. of playing in “the playoffs.”

    I think of the NCAA tournament play-in game in the same fashion.

  8. dsherm91 says:

    Being an Indians fan, I have to say that it’s definitely a Playoff game.

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