NL could be in playoff tiebreakers until Thursday

Updated: September 28, 2007, 3:15 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

If you think the National League standings are making you blind, it could easily get worse.

Try looking at the tiebreaker scenarios.

ONE-GAME PLAYOFFS
Potential tiebreaker matchups based on coin flips:
NL WILD CARD
Philadelphia at San Diego
San Diego at Colorado
Philadelphia at Colorado
Arizona at San Diego
Arizona at Colorado
Arizona at Philadelphia
San Diego at New York
New York at Colorado

NL EAST
NY Mets at Philadelphia

NL WEST
San Diego at Arizona
Colorado at Arizona
Colorado at San Diego

If four teams in the East and West finish the season with the same record, we predict business will be booming at all kinds of ophthalmologists' offices near you.

Among the fun possibilities if that happens: The Padres theoretically could play in Milwaukee on Sunday, in Arizona on Monday, in San Diego on Tuesday, in Philadelphia on Wednesday, back in San Diego on Thursday and then in New York on Friday.

But dont write any of that in ink. This is such a mess, MLB had to declare Thursday "Emergency Coin Flip Day," because let's just say some of these matchups didn't look quite this likely a couple of weeks ago.

Ready for the most crazed scenarios? All right, here goes:

Four-team craziness: If the two NL East teams and the top two NL West teams all tie:
Just for the sake of discussion, let's say the Mets, Phillies, Padres and Diamondbacks finish with the same record. Here's how that would work:

• The Mets and Phillies play a one-game playoff Monday in Philadelphia to decide the NL East.

• The Padres and Diamondbacks play a one-game playoff Monday in Arizona to decide the NL West.

• The losers then play Tuesday to decide the wild card. A Diamondbacks-Phillies game would be played in Philadelphia. A Padres-Phillies game would be in San Diego. And if the Mets are involved, they would play Arizona or San Diego at home, but they would have to go to Coors Field if they wind up playing it off with Colorado. Amazingly, the Mets and D-backs didn't find any of that out until Thursday, because back when the original wild-card scenarios were determined, nobody at MLB apparently envisioned that those scenarios would include New York or Arizona. Uh, oops. So a whole lot of frantic coin-flipping went on Thursday to sort all this out.

More four-team craziness: If two NL West teams and the two NL East teams all have the same record:
• It's still possible that the Phillies, Mets, Padres and a fourth team (either the Diamondbacks or Rockies but not both) could all have the same record. But that creates two different scenarios -- one if there is a tie for the NL West title, another if the NL West clubs finish tied for second (and the wild card).

• If there's a tie for both the NL West and NL East titles, there would be tiebreaker games Monday in Philadelphia and San Diego.

• Then the two losers would meet Tuesday. Here are the sites of those potential games:

    • Phillies-Padres in San Diego

    • Phillies-Rockies in Colorado

    • Phillies-Diamondbacks in Philadelphia

    • Mets-Padres in New York

    • Mets-Rockies in Colorado

    • Mets-Diamondbacks in New York

• But if the two teams tied in the NL West finish second, we have a whole different game plan. The only similarity is that the Phillies and Mets would play Monday in Philadelphia to sort out the NL East.

• The loser then would then move on to a three-team wild-card tournament that would work the way we laid it out above. But here is how baseball would decide which team would get the option of one road game or two home games

    • In an Arizona-San Diego-New York three-way: Diamondbacks.

    • In a Colorado -San Diego-New York three-way: Rockies.

    • In an Arizona-San Diego-Philadelphia three-way: Diamondbacks.

    • In a Colorado-San Diego-Philadelphia three-way: Rockies.

So that's the lay of this goofy land. Everybody have it all straight now? You'd better. There will be a quiz in the morning.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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