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Chaos Could Still Be In Store For The MLB Playoffs

First, we talk about the wild finish to baseball’s regular season — even though it ended up going pretty much as had been predicted a few months earlier. In place of chaos, we have a wild-card matchup between the Yankees and Red Sox in the American League. The Yankees are the favorites and have more on the line as they are built to win now and the Red Sox are pleasantly ahead of schedule in what they thought was a rebuilding year. In the National League, it’s a little surprising (and very impressive) that the Cardinals snuck into the wild-card matchup against the Dodgers, who are still our World Series favorites after winning 106 games. But until the playoffs are restructured, a single-elimination game is still a consequence of not winning the division — and it’s just unlucky that your competition happened to win 107 games. 

Next, we look at Cincinnati’s chances to make the College Football Playoff in light of its win over Notre Dame. This might be the best chance a Group of Five team has had since the playoff began, especially given how Oregon’s loss to Stanford. But unfortunately, the Bearcats probably need Oklahoma and a couple of Big Ten teams to fall (and Notre Dame to suddenly start winning games) in order to sneak past the established candidates. It does look like Cincinnati has a decent chance to win its remaining schedule, but with Alabama and Georgia virtually locked into two playoff spots, they’re going to need a healthy dose of luck to break through for one of the other two. It’s probably one reason Cincinnati is set to join the Big 12, so that they won’t be penalized for having Temple and Tulane on their schedule. 

Finally, FiveThirtyEight copy editor Santul Nerkar joins us to answer a listener-requested Rabbit Hole! While Vladimir Guerrero and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are an impressive father-son duo in baseball, they are not the most impressive family — at least by wins above replacement. That honor belongs to Bobby and Barry Bonds, who have an otherworldly combined 220.6 WAR. If you include extended family, distant-cousin Reggie Jackson would bring the crew’s total up to nearly 300 WAR, although perhaps we shouldn’t. The Hot Takedown team is pretty sure that if you publicly say someone doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, you probably don’t want to get grouped with them even in the service of leaving Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. in the dust.  

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.