Thursday, September 29, 2011

Game Picks - Regular Season Finale Recap

Major League Baseball is usually like a mighty but meandering river winding from spring to fall. The very nature of the game and the season lends itself to pleasurable voyages on the water craft of your choosing. The journey is what separates our national pastime's place in sports from other games. Last night, that mighty river met a cataract and its water cascaded spectacularly in a great waterfall of drama. For some, that cascade was a thrill ride that led to ecstasy. For others, the end was like hitting the jagged rocks below. Either way it was spectacular and a fabulous end to the sport we love so much.

This writer's first thoughts last night were of the fans of the Braves and Red Sox. There is no joy in their final defeat in a month of slip and sliding. Any Yankee fan who witnessed 2004 knows how it felt to see a 3-0 games lead in their series with the Red Sox lead to the great collapse knows how Red Sox fans feel right now. And the same with fans of the Atlanta Braves. What once seemed such a sure and promising season turned to mourning and shock. The heart goes out to them.

The second thought was of the joy for Cardinals fans and fans of the Tampa Bay Rays, both teams with struggles all season that found a way to get hot when it mattered most. Both teams earned their way into the playoffs and those fans have to be thrilled silly. Congrats to all of you.

But those weren't the only games in town. An old man led the Mets to victory and their star shortstop, Jose Reyes won the batting title. But for those who came to see Reyes for perhaps the last time in a Mets uniform had to be disappointed when Reyes took himself out of the game after bunting his way on base in his first at bat. That move simply isn't cool to this observer, especially in this day and age when the batting title isn't what it used to be. 

The Brewers, Tigers and Rangers all won their final games and head to the playoffs on a roll. The Yankees...well the Yankees made this observer feel a little empty. While understanding that they earned the right to rest their players and setting up its rotation for the playoffs was an understood priority, relievers are not starters and have a day of rest before the playoffs begin. It would have been much more good for the soul if David Robertson or even Rafael Soriano had started the ninth inning for the Yankees instead of Cory Wade. The results might have been the same, but at least it would have felt right. And without taking anything away from the Rays, those last two homers (Dan Johnson and Evan Longoria) were really of the cheap variety, going to the shortest points in the outfield and just clearing absurdly low walls.

The Royals, Pirates, Nationals and Indians all finished with losing records again, but this year feels different for all of them. For once, their seasons showed the promise of what could be coming. Brighter days seem to be in the offing for these franchises. Lost in all the playoff hoopla last night was an amazing performance from Stephen Strasburg. The pitcher showed once again that if he can remain healthy, the future is unbelievably exciting. The same could be said for the Rockies with Drew Pomeranz.

This Fan of Major League Baseball has written these columns for 177 straight days that encompassed the entire MLB season. It's been a blast and an honor to predict and then chronicle the results from day to day. The column has kept this Fan's finger on the pulse of the entire season. The fun and this feature will continue through the playoffs but it's a very different animal to predict a couple of games a day instead of fifteen. Stay tuned and thanks as always for making this one of your daily stops.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 36-27
Month: 241-155
Season: 1363-1064
Games of the Day: 111-66

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