The final out is recorded. Players run from the dugout and bullpen to converge on the diamond in a sea of humanity. Hugs are exchanged and the crowd goes wild. From there, the celebration moves to the locker room where champagne, or your carbonated adult beverage of choice, rains down from the ceiling as if the clouds finally opened upon Noah's Ark.
Less than 24 hours later, it's time for first pitch as...The regular season carries on.
We've reached the point in the MLB season where the letters joined the numbers in the standings. These letters-- often X, Y, or, Z-- represent your playoff status as October baseball prepares to commence. The ten teams who end up lasting until then will often engage in a raucous celebration, one that seems convoluted in the grand scheme of things: the season isn't over just yet. The postseason journey hasn't even begun.
Yet, the mere fact you're going to be there prompts spring-break style of joy that draws ire of baseball's so-called purists. A select group of extremists always seems to rub either end of the argument the wrong way, but the mere prescience of bottles and goggles pops the cork off of a plethora of hot takes.
After all, if the culmination of a baseball season was a mere playoff clinching, the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s would be regarded as legends. You rarely, if ever, see such celebrations for, say, an NFL wild card spot or even the NBA's sixth seed. Yet, even wild card teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals commemorated their trips with displays of diamond debauchery upon their wild card arrivals.
But at the end of the day... we should just shut up and let it flow.
Yes, on paper it may seem like a little much to celebrate just a playoff appearance. Some critics have even likened the practice to participation trophies. But it's not like you see the Detroit Tigers popping bottles after their wins.
The MLB's playoff format is ideal, at least in regards to how many teams make the playoff cut. While the NBA and NHL invite over half their squads, only a precious third of major league squads make the cut. To celebrate such an achievement shouldn't be such a shock.
The other difference baseball has on the other major sports is the fact that play a daunting 162 games. That number stands on its own in a big way. In other words, the season is a grind.
Including the time-honored tradition of spring training, MLB teams are either playing or practicing at nearly a non-stop pace for seven whole months before the playoffs even start. You might get the occasional off day if Mother Nature's in a rainy mood, but those games are more often than not made up. In other words, the players deserve a break. If you take one win, one day of the whole year, and set it aside for bubbly antics... So be it.
"But winning is what they're supposed to do!", the critics counter. If that's the case, you better not go out for a celebratory drink after landing a potential sale or pitch. Birthday parties? Why bother? You think a mere landmark on the calendar should set off a celebration? You're living, just like you're supposed to.
Everyone needs a reprieve from their job from time-to-time, even if the said job is partaking in America's Pastime. Some people order a steak. Others go out dancing. In baseball, it's a friendly party in the locker room to celebrate seven months of hard work to be considered among the best of the best.
If you don't like it, go out and accomplish something on your own. It feels pretty good, right? Now just imagine what it's like to be on the top of a grouping that includes hundreds of professional athletes. You'd be celebrating too. Let the players have their fun.
Let. It. Flow.