Before we proceed, just a quick pop quiz to see if any of you are actually paying attention:
What significant moment happened earlier this week? On Wednesday, to be exact?
The answer in a bit, but first it’s time to paint a picture.
Some of you are old enough to remember baseball’s glory days, back when each league crowned a single champion who would advance directly to the World Series.
A slate of 162 games to determine one spot. Brutal.
Then came divisional play, in which each league split in half and sent its top two teams into what was then a best-of-five, then eventually a best-of-seven, league championship series.
Each method for determining playoff representatives gave us two words that always seemed to resonate every September: magic number.
Every night, the team in first would peel back a digit (or two) on the number that signified how many wins it needed and opponent losses it required to clinch a playoff spot.
When baseball split into four divisions and added a wild card team – then went a step further by adding a fifth team to that mix last season – it simply watered down the significance of the magic number. Winning a division no longer means what it used to, and as for the magic number, who really cares when there are five teams calculating them?
It’s simply easier to reach the playoffs now than it used to be. The grind of a long season doesn’t require the umph it used to.
But take heart, baseball fans. The magic number can be part of the discussion again — albeit on a scale befitting the Pecos League. It all leads us back to the quiz.
The answer: Your Santa Fe Fuego clinched a playoff spot to zero — zilch, zip, nada — fanfare when they beat Taos on the road Wednesday. Their magic number for securing their first postseason appearance was 1 entering that game. The win officially eliminated both Taos at Raton from the division championship, leaving them alive (but just barely) for a wild card berth out of the North.
The Pecos League’s website doesn’t mention anything, nor do the various social media sites used by any team or the league. The only hint is the addition of three extra games for both Santa Fe and second-place Trinidad at the end of the regular season in two weeks.
Those three games are actually the first-round playoff series that no one seems to know about. That appears to be news to everyone, particularly Trinidad, which hasn’t officially nailed down a playoff spot yet.
Speaking of the Triggers, Santa Fe’s magic number over them to clinch the North and earn first-round home field advantage was 11 entering Friday’s games. Every Fuego win and Trinidad loss reduces that number by one until it reaches zero. At the earliest, the division could be wrapped up by next Tuesday.
So savor that, Fuego fans. Your team is in the playoffs. And it’s bringing some fun back to the idea of the magic number.
Just don’t expect to find any hint of that online.