Notes from the last day of the baseball season:
Jose Reyes bunts for a hit, then sits out the Mets’ final game, vitually assuring him the National League batting title with a .337 average. He is booed as he leaves, possibly spending his last moments as a Met.
Weak? Ehhh … this kind of stuff has happened before in baseball. It happens in a game that places such an emphasis on numbers and let’s face it, it means a few more bucks, too. In the end it didn’t really matter, because Ryan Braun finished at .332.
The Giants lose to the Rockies, 6-3 to end things, but a nice ovation for Pat Burrell on what might have been his final day as a major leaguer. He went 1 for 3 with two strikeouts, mirroring his average in The Marina.
As Bill Neukom bows out as managing partner ( with a nice video tribute from the franchise that is giving him the heave-ho, er, celebrating his retirement ), Burrell ponders his future. Hopefully there is a role for him in the Giants’ organization.
The Giants gather to thank the fans who supported them so well with a season of sellouts, and manager Bruce Bochy says “let’s get ready for 2012.” The Giants have a lot of work to do in the offseason, so it’s probably just as well that they’ll get an extra month to do so this year.
In Arizona, Matt Kemp finishes one home run shy of a 40-40 season, as the Dodgers become the first team since July to beat the Diamondbacks. Arizona won 76 of their last 77 to win the NL West, or so it seemed.
No one will favor the NL West champs in the playoffs, which will make them dangerous. Sound familiar?
Ah, but who else will make the postseason? Here’s where the fun begins …
Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals crush the Astros, 8-0, assuring no worse than a Wild Card play-in game with the Braves on Thursday. The Braves squander a 3-1 lead to the Phillies, and Freddie Freeman grounds into a double play in the 13th, burying his helmet in the turf as the Braves’ historic collapse is complete, 4-3. Chop this.
For LaRussa, the September comeback from the dead may be the crowning achievement of a Hall of Fame career. The Cardinals celebrated like they stole something, which they did, sort of. LaRussa acknowledged the Phillies for playing hard until the end when they had already clinched the NL East.
The only consolation for the Braves is that their swan dive will be overshadowed by the Red Sox’ tailspin — or the Rays’ comeback. The Sox were sitting pretty for a while Wednesday night, with a 3-2 lead over the Orioles while the Rays trailed the Yankees 7-0. But that’s why they play nine innings.
The Sox were sent into the clubhouse after a rain delay that must have been torture for them, except that word has been copyrighted by the Giants, I think. During the delay, the Rays scored six in the 8th to pull within a run, 7-6.
Then in the bottom of the 9th at the Juice Box, former A’s first baseman Dan Johnson homered to tie the game, 7-7, and force extra innings. I know, amazing isn’t it? Dan Johnson is still playing baseball.
In Baltimore, the Red Sox still held a 3-2 lead in the 9th. Their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, gets two quick strikeouts. Then Chris Davis doubles, Nolan Reimold doubles, and Robert Andino singles.
Carl Crawford slid but could not snare the low, sinking liner off Andino’s bat, and the throw home was late. Crawford ends up aiding his old team, the Rays. The O’s celebrate their 69th and most significant win after they were down to their last strike. The Sox finish a 7-20 September.
Now, the Sox must get the Yankees’ help to reach the postseason. Fat chance.
The 4-3 Orioles’ win is posted on the scoreboard at the Juice Box. On cue, just minutes later, Evan Longoria hits a low screamer that would have short-hopped the wall in the left field corner at A T and T Park. Fortunately for him and the Rays, the wall is only 315 feet down the line, and is lowered near the foul pole.
Longoria, who had hit a three-run homer in the 8th, is a hero in an 8-7, 12-inning victory. Just like that, Sox are out, Rays are in.
They’ll do an ESPN 30 on 30 about this remarkable evening. The nine ESPN employees who aren’t Red Sox fans will be part of the production. Meanwhile, otherwise- learned authors will waste their brainpower on another 39 books about the Red Sox tortured history, and this historic collapse.
No one outside of New England will care because the Sox have won two World Series in the last seven years, and have saturated the media. I won’t miss the shots of praying fans at Fenway. Boston has already had an embarrassment of riches in sports.
The Boston media and Red Sox fans will grind on this for months. Nothing personal against the players, who are crestfallen, but it’s yet another reason to delight in the Sox’ demise.
Some are already calling for Manager Terry Francona’s head. Seriously. That’s what he gets for bringing Boston the first two World Series titles since the over-told “Curse Of The Bambino.”
A reporter after the game asked Papelbon “his feelings” about the loss. Really. His feelings? Fan-freaking-tastic! The look in Papelbon’s eyes told the story: I want to kill you.
My schadenfreude is not reserved solely for the Red Sox. Once again, the Braves flame out, sparing the nation the sound of the baleful “Tomahawk Chop” war-chant. It is at worst, highly offensive, and at best inane.
As usual, the talking heads and ‘wags’ go overboard, calling it the “greatest night of baseball ever.” MLB Network’s guys, who did a great job keeping track of the action, were positively giddy, talking about how “honored” they were to cover this evening.
I really don’t know how to quantify it, but the night reminded me of a few nights around here last fall. Nights that make me glad I’m a baseball fan.