NEW YORK -- Now that the second half of the regular season is under way, the postseason push and the pennant races become the singular focus almost everywhere. One-third of the 30 clubs will make it there this time, the most ever, and it will all start on TBS with any potential play-in tiebreaker, the new one-game "win and in" Wild Card round and then all four Division Series.
David Wells is ready for it. The TBS studio analyst and winner of 239 games made his first visit to the MLB Fan Cave on Friday, and after mixing it up with fans on the sidewalk, going down the home run slide, shooting pool, rolling Skee-ball and hanging out with the five remaining Cave Dwellers, he imagined what it would be like to watch every game there as the road to the World Series gets serious.
"It's going to be great," Wells said. "TBS has quality guys there. I know Cal Ripken's going to enjoy it. Dennis Eckersley is great, he's funny, he's going to make some poke-shots at this. I just go with the flow and try to key off these two guys. [The Wild Card] is an extra game for us to call. A one-game playoff. That's a lot on the line, because obviously it's 'loser go home.'
"It could be a team like the Yankees, dominating the whole way, and all of a sudden, they fall back and it's a one-game [play-in] and they don't make it? That's tough to swallow. It's huge headlines. But it's like any other team out there. Same thing with Washington or Texas. To me it's interesting, and it gives us an extra day in the studio to work with all these games and give our two cents' worth."
Wells' former Yankees club entered Friday's resumption of games with the Majors' best record, and there were 21 teams either in playoff position or within a handful of games of a Wild Card berth.
"It's going to make things interesting down the road," Wells said. "These teams where the guys have had injuries, they're going to get key players back now, especially Boston, so it might make things interesting there. When it comes down to the wire, it becomes all about pitching. If your pitching can hold up and go deep in there and try not to wear out your bullpen, because they're key as well, that's where you're going to win a lot of ballgames. The strongest staffs, those are going to stick out like a sore thumb and put themselves at the head of the pack."
This year's Wild Card playoff games will be contested on Friday, Oct. 5, two days after the end of the regular season. Any tiebreaker games will be played on Thursday, Oct. 4, and as has been the case since 2007, will be aired on TBS.
This is the first year there will be two Wild Card berths in each league, resulting in 10 postseason teams. The postseason expansion, the first since 1994, was negotiated last year in the new labor agreement reached between the owners and the Players Association. TBS already broadcasts two Division Series and a League Championship Series in addition to 26 Sunday regular-season games.
Glenn Diamond, coordinating producer for Turner Sports, accompanied Wells to the Fan Cave, and said that the planning of postseason broadcast logistics is already under way.
"There are a lot of teams involved, a lot of stadiums involved, so we have to do a more extensive job in our preparation to get ready for the postseason," Diamond said. "Not only will we have to deal with the Wild Card games -- and we know most of the stadiums -- but there is more of a chance for tiebreakers now. We have to be ready for the tiebreakers, the Wild Card games, and then the next day, the start of the Division Series. So we are trying to get all of our technical rules, all of our production crews, ready. We are basically starting now. We started a month ago, but we are really starting now."
If the last day of the 2012 regular season is even remotely like the last day in 2011, it could be pure pandemonium.
"The season ends on a Wednesday, and now there is more of a chance for a play-in tiebreaker," said Diamond. "It used to be that if a team won the division and a team won the Wild Card, and they tied in the standings, they didn't play that off because both teams were in. Now they have to play that off, because there is such an advantage for the division.
"The dynamics have changed here for us. We know going in right now that we are going to have to set up three stadiums where we are never going to broadcast. Last year we had to do it in St. Louis and Tampa. We already know we have to do it for three."
Wells is looking forward to a lot of "well-played games," adding, "I'm a [complete game] guy."
It remains to be seen how many complete games there will be between now and the postseason, but there won't be enough to suit Wells' tastes. And don't get him started on the question of whether Stephen Strasburg should be shut down by the Nationals once he reaches an innings limit.
"They're going to hold him back, but to me, I don't know," Wells said. "It's going to be tough, because the guy is so good. At a young age, he had problems. I had the surgery. There's no scientific evidence when you're going to blow out. To me, if they need him, I'm sure Stephen, like he said, they're going to have to pry the ball out of his hand.
"You've got to protect your product, but I think baseball is protecting too many guys now. There's a 100-pitch rule, and I don't like that. I think the deeper you go ... Old-school baseball is still quality, but today, five innings is a quality game. That's not the way it's supposed to be. Nine innings is quality. Or seven and a half innings. We'll see."