Tigers 5, White Sox 3; Twins 13, Royals 4: 162 games and nothing is decided. Before Saturday night the Twins hadn’t smelled first place since May. They were seven games out in early September. Now it all comes down to Tuesday. I love me these 163-game seasons we’ve been having the past couple of years, but then again, it hasn’t been my team in the nerve racking playoff game. Moment of shallowness: does the fact that Jason Kubel and Delmon Young came up bigger than Mauer did over the weekend somehow cost Joe MVP votes? Obviously that shouldn’t be the case — and really, the stathead paranoia that Mauer won’t win the MVP is getting pretty tired by now — but if I let my imagination run wild, I can feature someone thinking “you know, in the end, Mauer needed help!”
Yankees 10, Rays 2: The fact that Alex Rodriguez’s 2 HR, 7 RBI inning put him exactly on 30 homers and exactly on 100 RBI will cause someone somewhere to count it against him as some personal stats-inspired performance. Really, unless he bats .500/.750/1.750 in the playoffs, there will be a hatchet job article about me-first A-Rod referencing this game before spring training starts.
Dodgers 5, Rockies 3: Vicente Padilla shuts down a skeleton-crew Rockies lineup in a meaningless game. And as per his tradition in meaningless season finales, Joe Torre let the players take over. He chose Brad Ausmus as manager, named Mark Loretta bench coach, Jim Thome was the hitting coach and Jeff Weaver was the bullpen coach. I suppose he could have given those responsibilities to more boring guys if he tried, but the Dodgers probably would have had to make some roster moves first. I know P.R. considerations wouldn’t let him name Manny manager for a day, but a boy can dream, can’t he? Ausmus on his future as a manager: “There are times when I think I’d like to do it, and there’s times when I think I’d like to walk away from a baseball stadium and never come back. But those are usually the days when I’m 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.” So what he’s saying is that the days he wants to walk away and never come back far outnumber the “I want to be a manager” days.
Mariners 4, Rangers 3: Griffey singled in his last at bat, cried a bit, tipped his cap and was carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders to wild ovations from the Seattle crowd. I don’t believe in fate or magic or most other metaphysical baloney, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the universe was telling you something, Junior. There’s no way you’ll ever have a better way to go out and you have absolutely zero to prove. So, unless the idea of retirement is positively poison to you, call a press conference, fly back to Seattle next opening day for the number retirement, and take your well-earned place in Valhalla.
And yes, that advice for Griffey is 100% calculated to make life easier for me to deal with the end of his career. He probably does not — and probably should not — give a crap.
Giants 4, Padres 3: Not that anyone listens to me when it comes to end-of-career advice anyway. The other day I thought that the Unit should take the weekend off, having his career end at his home park with a high five, a victory, and the cheer of hometown fans. Instead he pitches an inning on the road, blows a lead and has his bacon saved by Jeremy Affeldt, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval. Oh well, everything ends badly, or else it would never end.
Angels 5, Athletics 3: Has a team ever bounced back from as horrible an April as the Angels? We can’t know because the reasons for the horribleness are partially unquantifiable, but hats off to Anaheim for a great season regardless. I have no rooting interests in this year’s playoffs, and when that happens I tend to adopt a team. The Yankees and Red Sox are never going to be that team because they don’t need me and I don’t much like them. I have some historical issues with the Twins, and even if I didn’t, if they pull it out on Tuesday, their bandwagon is going to be pretty full. The Tigers are an old flame, but I can’t see myself getting involved with someone who doesn’t have their stuff together. The Phillies are my team’s division rival, and I can’t bring myself to root for them at any time before the World Series, and maybe not at all. The Cardinals and Dodgers made that list of teams to whom I could conceivably sell my allegiance and I am an NL guy at heart, but the Angels are at least shaping up to be the team I’d like to see come out of the AL.
Diamondbacks 5, Cubs 2: The regular season ends for Chicago. And the what-in-tarnation-are-we-going-to-do-about-Milton Bradley season begins.
Brewers 9, Cardinals 7: The stumble-to-the-finish-line Cardinals are set to face the stumble-to-the-finish-line Dodgers. It’s been nearly 20 years since I took a physics class, so someone is going to have to tell me what it is that happens when an eminently resistible force meets a totally movable object.
Phillies 7, Marlins 6: I’m not going to say that Philadelphia was thinking more about Colorado than Florida in this game, but they used eight pitchers and thirteen position players, none of whom were named Howard, Rollins or Utley. For what it’s worth, Hanley Ramirez wins the batting title, though that was decided a while ago.
Red Sox 12, Indians 7: Clay Buchholz gives up 13 runs in eight innings over his last two starts. In light of that, if you’re the Angels, you gotta be thinking “split at home, and we’re sitting pretty.” Game story: “Jason Bay did not make an error this season, becoming the fourth qualifying Red Sox outfielder with a 1.000 fielding percentage.” If Jason Bay finishing with a 1.000 fielding percentage does not make every last person finally reject fielding percentage as a legitimate measure of defensive prowess, nothing will.
Nationals 2, Braves 1: What an up and down year for the Braves. At least they enter an offseason with the good kinds of question marks (which of the six good starters we have will we keep? When will we call up our stud corner outfielder?) instead of the bad ones (is this the year Francoeur figures it out? Can anyone besides Chipper hit the ball?).
Reds 6, Pirates 4: The Pirates got shut out 17 times this sason. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that it wasn’t their year.
Mets 4, Astros 0: Mercifully, 2009 ends for the Mets. Even more mercifully, no one threw their back out or pulled their hamstring while cleaning out their locker.
Orioles 5, Blue Jays 4: For finishing the season with four straight wins and for avoiding 100 losses, the Orioles don’t get a “Homicide” quote: “You better calm yourself down before I haul off and smack you upside your wide, wide head. We killed your husband. And I ain’t your maid anymore b*tch. I’m your sister in crime!” I apologize if you haven’t seen that movie. I apologize even more if you have.
An so our revels now are ended. Oh, I’ll recap game 163 between the Twins and Tigers, and I’ll recap the playoff games too, but it’s just not the same. The playoffs bring a bothersome importance to everything. The kid of importance that saps this unimportant little feature of all of its fun.
Beginnings are nice. We get them every April. Endings are glorious. We’ll have one in a few weeks. Personally, however, I prefer the middles. A full slate of near-meaningless late-July Wednesday night games. The day-in-day out of it all. Broadcasts without extreme closeups and storylines. People doing things both heroic and ignominious every night that are basically forgotten by noon the next day because, hell, there’s another ballgame in a few hours. The playoffs are great in their own way, but nothing beats everyday baseball, and I am once again sad to see it go.
Thanks for checking in every morning, folks. We’ll have plenty to talk about all fall and winter, but really, it’s all about counting down until we get that slate of near-meaningless 15 games again next April 5th for which we can once again say: And That Happened.