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A three-way tie? Pfffft. Here’s what happens in a four-way wild card tie

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The Mets, Cardinals, and Giants are all tied for two spots. But it's not inconceivable for one or two more teams to bring a little more chaos into our lives

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

I was writing about a three-way wild card tie yesterday, and then Henry Schulman wrote about what would happen. That’s okay, I thought. Just dust myself off the next day and hope that everyone forgot or didn’t see it. Then Andrew Baggarly wrote even more about it. So now everything I cobbled together yesterday is even more useless.

But I learned from the best, and that lesson was to never give up. So we’re going to explore what would happen in a four-way wild card tie.

My argument is this: It would be the best possible way to maximize the even year nonsense. Because chaos favors the Giants, we should take off our robes and wade into the chaos. It will take some work, though.

The Marlins need to get hot

The Marlins, Mets, Cardinals, and Giants all have 11 games left. It’s not likely for a team four games back to catch three teams. One, maybe, but even that’s extraordinarily unlikely.

The key here is that the Mets, Cardinals, and Giants all have the capacity to play like complete and utter bonerfingers for extended stretches. Also, the Marlins play the Mets three more times, which gives them a little control over the situation.

Possible scenarios:

If the three top teams go: 6-5
The Marlins need to go: 9-1

If the three top teams go: 5-6
The Marlins need to go: 8-2

If the three top teams go: 4-7
The Marlins need to go: 7-3

If the three top teams go: 3-8
The Marlins need to go: 6-4

And so on. The sweet spot, for me, is that 5-6 scenario. It involves a team getting hot, but not lead-story-on-Baseball-Tonight-if-it-happens-in-May hot. The Giants won eight games in a row twice this season, and they’re terrible. But they weren’t then. And all it takes is a silly little hot streak from the Marlins with the other teams refusing to pull away.

What would happen

Right now the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker as the top wild card seed over the Mets because they have a better record against the rest of the NL Central than the Mets do over the NL East. The Mets would likely be the second seed, the Giants the third, and the Marlins the fourth because of intra-divisional records. Maybe

Actually, I’m not sure about which team is which seed. So let’s just look at the official rules:

Mmmm-hmmm. Right. Right. Got it.

This is actually a paragraph in the official rules for a four-way tie:

The Club with the highest winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between any of the tied Clubs, chooses its designation followed by the Club with the second-highest winning percentage and the Club with the third-highest winning percentage. Continue to go back one intraleague game at a time until any ties have been broken.

The end result, though? A play-in game to the play-in game. The winner of the play-in game would face the Cubs in the Division Series. It’s actually much simpler than the weirdness of the three-team playoff, in which one of the teams would have to decide if they preferred one home game to decide everything, or if they preferred a road game with a safety net.

The flaw in this plan

The flaw in this plan is that it would involve the Marlins, who are the only known enemy of Giants-related nonsense in the wild. There are Mayan ruins with stone art that depicts a fish stabbing a large man and baby bear with its sharp bill, and we should fear this prophecy.

Is it too much to root for ultimate chaos?

It is not! See, the Pirates are 4½ games back. They have 12 games left, and they have three games left against the Cardinals. So now what would probably need to happen is

  1. The Marlins sweep the Mets
  2. The Pirates sweep the Cardinals
  3. The Giants play like buffoons

Likely? None of this is likely. Except for that last point. But, like, you even being here isn’t likely, man. What if, like, the apes that became your descendents were killed by, like, bigger apes thousands of years ago? Makes you think.

In this scenario, let’s check in with the official MLB rules for a five-team tie for the two wild card spots:

Nothing. There’s nothing in the official rules. It would be anarchy unless they have secret tiebreaker rules that they've never released for public consumption.The odds of this happening are roughly 1 in 123,281, so why would there be tiebreakers at the ready?

The odds of this happening were roughly 1 in 123,282:

So while I'd prefer for the Giants to play like they were playing in the first half and just make the stupid postseason, I'm not opposed to a little chaos. Or a lot of it.

But it's still technically possible for there to be a five-team tie that would involve ... a round-robin tournament? Not without delaying the division series. Something that wasn't a round-robin tournament? Not without one of the teams out of the five without a serious disadvantage, such as missing the tiebreaker games entirely because of their intra-league record.

How about a round-robin tournament featuring doubleheaders at a neutral spot?

Oh, baby.

Anyway, if you think the capacity for even-year nonsense begins and ends with a second-half slide, don't sleep on the possibility for chaos, with the Giants emerging from underneath a pile of skulls to face the Cubs and the rest of the postseason. I'd remind you that it's unlikely again, except my eyes are crossed and I'm watching Bengie Molina triple for the cycle again. It's a helluva drug.