By In Baseball, Joe Vault

Baseball Night in America

Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. That in many ways is the beauty of it. I realize that’s a hard thing to explain to someone who doesn’t love baseball, no, more than hard, it’s an impossible thing to explain because many people want sports to be more than life, they follow sports to jolt them out of the steady rhythms of the shriek of alarm clocks, the monotony of morning meetings, the rush to get our kids to soccer practice by 4 p.m. They want sports to be bigger than life. What’s the point, otherwise? There is nothing in baseball as jarring as a blind-side hit, as jaw-dropping as a perfect alley-oop, as tense and heart-pounding as a breakaway.

And the hard thing to explain, the impossible thing, is that many of us love baseball not in spite of these failings but because of them.

* * *

There was a moment on this crazy night — the craziest, most absurd, most wonderful (and horrible) baseball night I can remember — when Boston pitcher Alfredo Aceves refused to throw a pitch. He just refused, time and again, he kept shaking off his rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnay, once, twice, three times, four, the player strike must have lasted two minutes, three minutes, it was exactly the sort of moment that people who don’t get baseball point out. Nothing was happening. The Baltimore Orioles had two runners on base — both had been plunked by Alfredo Aceves. The fans wailing in Baltimore were mostly from Boston — Orioles fans were in bed, and had been since July. The baseball world was collapsing and detonating all around. And Alfredo Aceves, a 28-year-old pitcher from a small city in Mexico more famous for fighters than baseball players, just kept staring at his catcher with disdain, as if he was a child being told to take out the garbage or practice piano when he would rather be playing with his friends somewhere far away.

* * *

The Yankees were crushing the Rays. That was the only remotely interesting or surprising thing happening when I first settled in. We had spent the early part of Wednesday evening playing tennis in the rain because that seemed like something just stupid and dangerous enough to make 40-something men feel like boys. We joked about blowing out ACLs when there was actually a reasonable chance that one of us would blow out our ACL. One of our group was a huge Red Sox fan, and the others cared about what happened, but this is the marvelous thing about baseball. It will be there when you’re finished doing whatever it is you are doing.

The Cardinals were crushing the Astros. The Braves were leading Philadelphia. The Red Sox were beating Baltimore. It was all going exactly as any baseball fan might have predicted, except that the Yankees — who barely even cared — were destroying the Rays by seven runs. Ah well. Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. We went into this final night of the season with four teams tied for their league’s wildcard, with baseball for one night having a March Madness feel, but baseball is not like March Madness. What makes college basketball wonderful is its wild unpredictability. And that, in many ways, is the opposite of what makes baseball wonderful.

I’ve written this before: I never argue with people who say baseball is boring, because baseball is boring. And then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s what makes it great.

In other words: Then, suddenly, Evan Longoria steps to the plate.

* * *

Years and years ago, back when I was in high school, my best friend challenged me to a contest. He said: “Let’s see who can tread water the longest.” It was summer, and it was night, and it seemed like something just stupid and dangerous enough to make 17-year-old boys feel like men. We treaded water for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, there was no clock, there was nobody else at the pool, and after a while we were so tired that we stopped taunting each other. I can still remember how my body ached, my legs and arms barked, and more than anything I can remember the thought that kept echoing in my mind again and again: “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this?”

I thought about this in the 12th inning of the Phillies-Braves game. The Braves had blown their one-run lead in the ninth. That was probably the first sign that this night would not be predictable. The Phillies had loaded the bases against Atlanta’s rookie closer Craig Kimbrel on a single and two walks, and then Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. The Braves had been 8 1/2 games up in the wildcard race just three weeks earlier, and baseball teams don’t often blow big leads like that. In baseball you can’t foul. You can’t stop the clock by going out of bounds. You can’t call timeout. Again: like life.

But this year the Cardinals started winning, and the Braves started fading, and more winning, more fading, more winning, more fading, until finally this crazy night, the Cardinals players sitting in their clubhouse watching the Braves play extra innings against Philadelphia. Suddenly, the math had been reduced to two possible outcomes. Braves win: A one-game playoff. Braves lose: Champagne in St. Louis.

And, 12th inning, Philadelphia’s Raul Ibanez came to the plate with a man on first and nobody out. Raul is 39 years old, though he seems older in the way of aging athletes. He did not get a real shot until he was 29 and in Kansas City, where the team was so bad there seemed no harm in giving him a chance. He proved that he could hit, and he was the sort of man every manager and teammate wanted to be around, and he became an every day player, in Kansas City, in Seattle, in Philadelphia. He made an All-Star team. He piled up RBIs. He found his groove. And now, on the final day of the season, in a game that meant nothing at all to his team except that you always want to win, he started in left field. He played the whole game, inning after inning, he struck out a couple of times, he managed a hit, and in the 12th he came up with that man on first and he hit a ground ball to second, a double play grounder for sure. Atlanta’s Dan Uggla scooped it, flipped it to shortstop Jack Wilson, who threw it to Freddie Freeman at first. The ball beat Ibanez by a half step.

And on this wonderful baseball night, this wonderful thought struck me: Raul Ibanez at age 39, in the 12th inning of what was for him and his team a game without consequence, had run his heart out to first base though the double play was almost certain.

Why are you doing this? Maybe it’s because sometimes, when it seems least likely, we might find the best in ourselves.

* * *

Longoria homered, of course. The night had already begun to get that sort of vibe. The Braves had blown their lead. The Red Sox were parked in a Baltimore rain delay. The Rays had cut the Yankees lead to 7-3, eighth inning, and Longoria came up with two men on, and the Yankees had their ninth pitcher on the mound, Luis Ayala, a 33-year-old reliever on his fifth big league team. At some point, the television cameras showed the great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera sitting with his famous placid look in the bullpen, though it was more likely that Mariano Melgar, the 19th Century Peruvian Poet, would enter this game. Ayala had come in with the bases loaded and nobody out, and he proceeded to walk one player, hit another, give up a sacrifice fly, but these were superfluous runs, teams don’t blow seven run leads in the ninth inning.

Then Longoria stepped to the plate with two outs and two on, and before he even swung the bat baseball fans across America knew exactly what was going to follow. Of course, this feeling — hey this guy’s going to hit a home run — often hits baseball fans, and it’s often followed by harmless pop-ups into foul ground or ground balls to second and batting helmets flung to the dirt in disgust. Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. Most comebacks fall short. Most playoff leads are safe. Most check swings are called strikes.

Longoria homered. That made it 7-6 Yankees.

* * *

Many of my best friends are Red Sox fans. I’m not exactly sure how that happened. Some are Red Sox fans because they grew up in New England or they lived there for at least a short while. Others were drawn into that world. They fell in love with the team when it seemed cursed, they went to Fenway Park and felt their lives altered somehow, they felt like their own life story was somehow entwined with the Red Sox story. Whatever the reason, they’ve all been miserable for a month.

The Red Sox actually led the American League East when September began. They dropped out of first the day that they lost to Texas 10-0. They kept losing. On Sept. 9, I asked Red Sox fans on Twitter if they were panicking. The Sox had just lost their seventh of nine games, but they still had the second-best record in the league, and their lead in the wildcard race was still 5 1/2 games. Some Red Sox fans said, yes, they were panicking, but their panic was mostly built around the growing realization that the Red Sox might not be good enough or healthy enough to win the World Series. The idea of missing the playoffs was still too remote to consider.

But Boston kept losing. They were swept at Tampa Bay. They lost three of four to the Rays at Fenway. Baltimore beat them three out of four at Fenway. Josh Beckett stopped getting people out. Jon Lester stopped getting people out. Their scattered wins felt epic and life saving — an 18-9 thumping of Baltimore, a 14-inning victory over the Yankees — but losses followed the very next day. I would suggest, that no group of fans in sports can do angst quite like Boston Red Sox fans.

When the Red Sox took the field again Wednesday night with a 3-2 lead and the Rays coming back against the Yankees, I got an email from one of those friends who loves the Red Sox. It was a one-word email.

“Doom,” it said.

* * *

The rest of the night was a blur, a wonderful blur, too much happening all at once — the Rays’ Dan Johnson lines the two-out, bottom of the ninth, home run to tie the Yankees … Hunter Pence hits the single that gave Philadelphia the lead in the 13th … Boston’s Marco Scutaro stumbles around on the bases and is thrown out at the plate when the Red Sox desperately needed that insurance run … the Yankees put runners on first and third with nobody out but don’t score … who can even remember the order of it all?

I feel sure that my strongest memory of the night will be in the Red Sox-Orioles game, Boston leading 3-2. The Orioles had nobody on base. And Rick Sutcliffe shouted something about how you could see it in Boston closer Jon Papelbon’s eyes — there was no way he was blowing this game.

In the eyes. As soon as Sutcliffe said it, I knew what was going to happen. I knew Papelbon was going to blow the game. I knew the Red Sox were going to lose the wildcard race. This was not a night for nonsense about eyes. I was so sure it was going to happen, that I typed into my Twitter the following: “Don’t see how Papelbon could have blown the game when the look in his eyes told the announcer he wouldn’t.” And then, I waited for it to happen.

Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax. That’s what you get most of the time. You stand in driver’s license lines, and watch Alfredo Aceves shake off signals, and sit through your children’s swim meets, and see bases loaded rallies die, and fill up your car’s tires with air and endure an inning with three pitching changes, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk.

But then, every now and again, something happens. Something memorable. Something magnificent. Something staggering. Your child wins the race. Your team wins in the ninth. You get pulled over for speeding. And in that moment — awesome or lousy — you are living something you will never forget, something that jumps out of the toneless roar of day-to-day life.

The Braves failed to score. Papelbon blew the lead. Longoria homered in the 12th. Elation. Sadness. Mayhem. Champagne. Sleepless fury. Never been a night like it. Funny, if I was trying to explain baseball to someone who had never heard of it, I wouldn’t tell them about Wednesday night. No, it seems to me that it isn’t Wednesday night that makes baseball great. It’s all the years you spend waiting for Wednesday night that makes baseball great.

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59 Responses to Baseball Night in America

  1. Chad says:

    First? Haven’t read yet … always print and read at home when I have more time to digest. Thanks in advance, Joe.

  2. JohnG says:

    Doom. Well put. The Sox killed me last night. Going to be a long winter. Great piece, Joe, thanks very much.

  3. Dave V. says:

    All I can say is that yesterday was the best night (or day) of regular season baseball I’ve ever seen. Amazing.

  4. Nokieman says:

    Thanks Joe. Like in life sometimes, I missed the big payoff last night. But got the same chills when I reached your penultimate graph.

  5. Comegys says:

    Wonderful ending. Baseball rules.

  6. Spud says:

    Really a great, great night for baseball. I can’t remember anything quite like it.

  7. Hambone says:

    What a great way to capture what’s wonderful about baseball. Tim Curry captured it in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with the word “anticipa………………………………………………………………..tion.”

  8. Frank says:

    It seems to me that Bud Selig is doing everything he can to ensure anti-climax. In the back of my mind, I get the idea that Bud and the lords of baseball really do not like the way things played out last night. Why? Because they have a plan to eliminate it in 2013 by adding a “play-in” game. The last couple of days, and especially last night, would have been perfectly meaningless under the 2013 playoff scenario. We would be having the Braves-Cardinals and Rays-Red Sox play-in games regardless of the outcomes of last night’s games. For that matter, it would not have mattered if the Cardinals and Rays had remained nine games back, there still would have been a been a play-in game.

    For every playoff scenario that can be concocted, there will be years that it works to bring excitement and other years that it works to drain excitement. The question is whether anyone can get all that excited about two slightly-above-average teams competing for the fifth best record in their leagues and the right to participate in a play-in game.

    Somehow, Bud Selig never misses an opportunity to shoot the game in the foot; or, in Joe’s words, ensure anti-clamax.

  9. ibrosey says:

    The winnah and still champeeen – Joe Posnanskeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee………..

  10. y42k says:

    For the Red Sox fan, this whole month Carly Simon has been singing, the ketchup bottle was open and upended…. Last night, out plopped a lump of pus, ruining our hamburger.

  11. bigsteveno says:

    Baseball is not about winning. Baseball is all about losing.

  12. Dwoldar says:

    Don’t the 2011 Rays remind you a lot like the 2002 Moneyball A’s?

    A’s lose Giambi. Rays lose Pena.

    A’s lose Damon. Rays lose Crawford.

    A’s lose Isringhausen. Rays lose Soriano.

    Everybody wrote both these teams off before the season despite the fact that the A’s had Chavez, Tejada and the big three and the Rays have Longoria, Zobrist and their own big three (Shields, Price, Hellickson).

    Could make for a very exciting sequel if you ask me.

  13. mjb345000 says:

    Awesome piece, Mr. Posnanski.

  14. s says:

    Joe, your beautiful words are what draw me to your blog.

    “No, it seems to me that it isn’t Wednesday night that makes baseball great. It’s all the years you spend waiting for Wednesday night that makes baseball great.” This statement resonates exactly how I feel.

    I’ve been watching baseball very regularly for ten years now. This night was the most thrilling and gut wrenching I have ever seen. I was on the edge of my seat as if it was one of the last episodes of a season of Breaking Bad.

    Excitement and wonder. I can’t wait to see another night like this.

  15. VP81955 says:

    Capturing a phenomenal night, and doing so beautifully.

    Someone’s comment comparing the Rays to the “Moneyball” A’s was right on target. Heck, this is better than the book or movie, because unlike the A’s, the Rays actually beat the evil empires.

  16. Jonathan says:

    Favorite line: “Orioles fans were in bed and had been since July.”. Great post, Joe.

  17. Of the 4 games, only the Boston-Baltimore tilt gave you that sense of two clubs putting maximum effort into winning. By the seventh inning or so, the two would be extra-inning games each morphed into a battle of a wild card contender versus the bench to AAA squads of the two clubs that had already clinched their league’s top seed. So while the games in Atlanta and Tampa had the excitement of your usual tight baseball game, much of the luster was dulled by the fact that only one team in each game was all in to win. We always seem to trend towards what happened most recently as being the best thing ever, but I’d have to say that what transpired in recent years when you say had the Giants-Padres or Twins-Tigers battling head-to-head for a single playoff spot is a better alternative to any or all of the 4 games we saw last night.

  18. Viki says:

    Last night’s baseball madness makes me glad I married a lifelong Phillies fan who drew me into a love of baseball.

    This post makes me glad I can read, that I get to read Joe’s stuff and that Joe writes. Makes me want to be a better writer, too.

    Best Thursday this year.

  19. s says:

    45debc30-33c5-11e0-bfa3-000bcdca4d7a The phillies did not have a scrub lineup out there. They were trying to (and did) set a new franchise record for wins in a season.

    The yankees didn’t send out scrubs exactly either. They got the big lead, put the best closer ever in and still lost.

    Those games last night were epic on so many levels.

  20. Milan says:

    “The yankees didn’t send out scrubs exactly either. They got the big lead, put the best closer ever in and still lost. “

    huh? Mariano, Robertson and Soriano didn’t pitch last night. Cory Wade gave up the tieing HR.

  21. s,

    There’s no question the Phils put out more of an effort to win than the Yankees. Unlike the Yankees, the Phillies left a fair number of starters in and did use their set-up man and closer for an inning each (that surely had more to do with the Phillies having an extra-off day before their playoff series starts than going for a franchise win record; I’m not sure why you think Rivera pitched last night). Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Phillies won and the Yankees didn’t. I had no dog in the fight heading into last night’s games so I’m giving you the detached MLB fan’s perspective of what I watched (and I watched them all as simultaneously as four split screens and two eyeballs would allow).

  22. NMark W says:

    s, you said above: “I can’t wait to see another night like this.”

    Don’t kid yourself, my man, you never will.

    Joe, wonderful piece as always. For a different wonderful piece from a slightly different angle I recommend BRs go to Fox Sports and read Jon Paul Morosi’s take on last night. Interesting details about Tampa Bay’s leftfield corner outfield wall and Carl Crawford.


  23. NMark W says:

    Oh, I meant to mention….Did any of you catch Buck Showalter’s smile as he stood in the O’s dugout and watched his guys celebrate like they had just won a championship as they pounded on Andino?
    I think their joy in beating the BoSox after what went on earlier this season between the two ballclubs is what will stick with me. Their season is over and yet they were probably as much or more jubilant than any of the other winning clubs yesterday. Good for them – revenge can be sweet.

  24. Jamie says:

    I love this game. And you, Joe. I love you too.

  25. Mark Daniel says:

    I find it very interesting that a team like the Red Sox, who spend a great deal of time and effort playing the percentages, accomplished a feat that no team in major league history has ever achieved.

    I wonder if the Red Sox front office feels like they just spent the day at the casino and stayed a bit too long at the Blackjack table.

  26. PM Brad says:

    This is such a great blog post. Shared it with my Dad, he loved it, too. Phenomenal insight and an awesome few closing paragraphs. Thanks, Joe.

  27. My favorite baseball team is the Braves, because I grew up in Atlanta (mostly during the pre-1991 “Loserville” era). My second favorite baseball team is the Red Sox, because I lived in Boston for seven years (all pre-2004). I’m glad I’ve matured to where I’m capable of being philosophical, and detaching myself enough from sports to where I no longer have to live and die with each of my teams, because otherwise last night might have literally killed me. Just don’t forget that there are two teams in every game, and a loser in every winner’s story; Wednesday night wasn’t so great for all of us.

    Also, re: Frank’s post above, I’m getting quite bored of the reflexive Selig bashing. Long before September, I came to think that the idea of a one-game playoff between two wildcard teams in each league has a lot of merit, because it creates a real reward for winning your division and may therefore create additional pennant race drama. In the current system, the gap between the reward of winning your division and of winning the wild card spot is too small to matter; going forward, it will widen significantly, and clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – i.e., getting to face the wild card team that has burned its best starting pitcher in the one-game playoff – may also matter more. For anyone tempted to point to this specific season, when the final-day drama may not have occurred if five teams in each league qualified for the playoffs, and suggest that it proves the second wild card spot is a stupid idea, I have three words to say to you: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE.

  28. Beautiful, Joe. It was one of the best nits I can remember to be a baseball fan.

    I don’t remember ever seeing a player decide to hit a home run the way longoria did last night. It was analogous to how I will decide to walk into the bathroom and brush my teeth. Longoria seemed to be thinking little more than, “I will walk to the plate and I will hit a home run.” that moment more than anything just blew me away.

  29. daveyhead says:

    Oh, what a night! Great post as usual, Joe.

  30. daveyhead says:

    I forgot to mention…how remarkable was it that the rain delay put the three games, all in extra innings, on at the same time? I watched the back and forth on MLB network, with Harold Reynolds and the others (don’t know their names) giggling like 15 year old Strat o MatIc players as they ran out of superlatives.

    I think MLB Network deserves an Emmy for the way they masterfully shuttled amongst the three games.

    And wasn’t it almost Shakespearean that ex Ray Carl Crawford couldn’t handle that final line drive?

  31. NMark W says:

    daveyhead: Even weirder which I did not realize until today… That quirky 4-5 ft outfield wall in fair territory down the left field line at the Trop in Tampa was created in 2007 to give leftfielders a chance to make a play on possible homeruns. The Tampa ownership specifically had Carl Crawford in mind when that change was made to their outfield wall. Talk about that remodeling going full circle! Read Jon Paul Moresi’s column from today at Fox Sports for more details. It’s a wonderfully strange, ironic world and baseball is all tied up in its irony – God, I love it!

  32. Chris says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. Sean says:

    Joe, I’m a frequent reader, but have never commented before. I feel I have to, however, after reading this post. I’ve always been a baseball fan, first and foremost (and a Red Sox one, in the name of full disclosure – last night wasn’t easy), and I’ve always heard many of my friends rail against the game, saying it’s much too boring and slow for the country in the present day. It gets grating after a while.

    But anytime I need a reminder of why I fell in love with the game in the first place, I’m going to come back to this post. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. Poetic, even. Thanks very much for your thoughts on the insanity that was last night.

  34. Kyle Litke says:

    Nice job, Joe.

    Last night was amazing. I live in Connecticut, so I was able to watch the Yankees/Rays and the Red Sox/Orioles more or less at the same time (hooray, last channel button!). Over on my iPad, MLB at bat was open to the Braves/Phillies game. And if that Cardinals game had been a little closer, my iPhone probably would have been open to that one too. Although I was keeping an eye on that Angels/Rangers game, tied in the 9th inning with home field advantage against the Tigers should they both make it to the ALCS, and the privilege of avoiding the Yankees in the ALDS. So many games to follow. Once the Braves lost, it somehow became even more frantic. Papelbon entered with a 1 run lead at the same time as McGee gave up a single to move Golson to third with nobody out. I was switching after every pitch (joking how McGee was getting two pitches in for every one of Papelbons even though he had runners on and Papelbon didn’t). And back and forth until the Rays somehow escaped and the Red Sox somehow didn’t. And before I could even process that the Red Sox had lost, the Rays walked off.

    I doubt we’ll ever see another night quite like that again, with so much happening at once.

  35. rokirovka says:

    Thank god for sports bars with multiple TVs.

  36. Great piece as usual Joe. Kudos to the Phillies for playing with integrity in their game against the Braves, and daggers to the Yankees for making a mockery of playing with integrity. The baseball gods know, however, that Wednesday was not just a one act play, and are saving their best for the Yankees. As Billy Beane said in Moneyball, it only means something if you win the last game played. Joe Girardi can learn a lot from Charlie Manuel and Buck Showalter – like life, respect the game and play with integrity.

  37. Surreality says:

    Like the 2003 ALCS. Last night still hurts as a Red Sox fan. Even after a days reflection.
    Their 2005, 2008 and 2009 losses weren’t the same. I got over those quite quickly Something about the way things went down last night just seemed like such a massive F-you from the “baseball gods”. But it reminded me that I still really do care about baseball so that’s something I guess.

    I just hope the Rays beat the Yankees in the ALCS. That would be such poetic justice.

  38. Alejo says:

    Mariano Melgar?

    You just googled out some Mariano to write a name.

  39. Vic Feigenbaum: As a Tiger fan, it is my fervent and devout wish that the baseball gods might bestow unto my team the honor of serving as their instruments of righteous reprisal.

    Beautiful piece, Joe. As always.

  40. Gary says:

    No clock.

    That’s the sweetest thing about baseball. That’s why the Rays could come back from seven runs down instead of the Yankees just taking a knee at the end. That’s why the Red Sox couldn’t just dribble around at half-court as the clock ticked down, giving the Orioles a chance to win. That’s why the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night could come back to win with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the 10th and trailing by five runs.

    Nothing boring about that.

  41. Mark Daniel says:

    Vic Feigenbaum, I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy, but what exactly did the Yankees do that was wrong? They did empty the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bench at the end, but what were they supposed to do? Do you think they should have put in soon-to-be 42 year old Mariano Rivera to close out that game, even though he is being counted on for several multiple inning outings in the Yankees’ run to championship #28?

    I agree there is a certain poetry to the goings on. The Yankees blew a big lead to a team that could come back to haunt them. On the other hand, they could have slammed the door on the Rays, which may have opened the door for the Red Sox, which also could have come back to haunt them.

  42. Frank says:

    Darren – Sounds to me like you’ve been drinking Selig’s kool-aid. Part of what made Wednesday night so great was the build up to it through the pennant race, together with what was at stake. Adding more teams to the post-season will kill what is left of pennant races. The competitive benefit you and Selig cite is so marginal, that it is not worth sacrificing pennant races. But that’s not REAL issue anyway – it’s the money. But Bud won’t state that publicly.

  43. dzfg says:

    Great read! Been saying it for a while. Baseball is a game of anticipation.

  44. Grulg says:

    Amazing how much this 2011 Red Sox collapse looks like ’74’s–both teams were lousy in April, good/great May-August, tanked and lost 20 in Sept. The main difference? ’74 Sox stopped hitting (hit .203 in Sept and saw team BA slip from .277 early August to a low of .262, .264 at season end) and this one stopped pitching, if you will. And the ’74 team was quite young while this one was a Veteran team. But you get the idea. Pretty lousy way to wind up the season.

  45. Tonus says:

    I wouldn’t mind if MLB kept its current format instead of adding more playoff games or playoff teams. But I also don’t think it would spell the end of exciting endings to a season, or heart-pounding season races. It would simply shift the epicenter of excitement.

    It reminds me of the joke about how you could move first base one foot closer to/farther from home plate and eliminate all of the close plays.

  46. Linus says:

    I’m totally confused about why this is Francona’s fault. Granted, I think a baseball manager is the most useless “head coach” of any sport, but still. Getting rid of him will fix things, how exactly?

  47. Kyle Litke says:

    Those blaming the Yankees are foolish and/or not paying attention. Girardi kept his regulars in for 7 innings til they hit the 8th with a 7 run lead, a point where many teams take their guys out even if the game matters to them. That’s longer than I expected. And he pitched the crappier part of the bullpen for most of the game…and those guys shut down the Rays. The guys who gave up the 7 runs were Ayala (ERA under 2.00 on the year prior to then, strong performance for the Yankees all year), Logan (the Yankees lefty out of the bullpen all year and in the playoffs), and Wade (under 2.00 ERA as well, I was shocked he even came in since he could actually be called on to get important outs in the playoffs). Mo, Soriano, and Robertson had all pitched the night before, so you’d be asking them to pitch back to back nights right before the playoffs where they might be called on to pitch multiple innings. So if Mo is called on Friday and Saturday, you suggest Joe Girardi should have thrown him 4 out of 5 days, 2 of them perhaps for multiple innings, because the Red Sox couldn’t get the job done and couldn’t win any games? And the same for Soriano and Robertson, who also pitched Tuesday and will be called on for important innings in the playoffs. Had Girardi pitched Mariano, he should have been fired. Period. It would be putting the Red Sox above his own team for the playoffs. Girardi played it exactly as he should have, with priority NUMBER ONE being to make sure the Yankees are ready for the playoffs. With that in mind (which means no Mariano, no Robertson, no Soriano, and not tiring out all of your everyday players by leaving them in for a long extra innings game, or, in this case, leaving them in the full nine innings when you have a 7 run lead in the 8th), Girardi managed it as best he could.

    And how many innings did Blanton go? 2? Hamels through 40 pitches. Why aren’t the Phillies being trashed for not leaving them in longer? Is it really just because they don’t have an NY symbol? Come on now.

  48. s says:

    Great points Kyle Litke. I I agree with your entire post.

  49. PaulB says:

    Hey Joe- amazing read, like everything else.
    Separate topic, but key issue regarding AL Cy young and MVP votes. Check these two stat lines from august/september of this year. Hint- they’re teammates…

    Player A-
    8 wins, 1 loss, 70.1 innings, 54 hits, 5 walks, 57 k’s, 1.79 era, 0.84 whip, .206 BAA
    Player B-
    9 wins, 0 loss, 70.0 innings, 53 hits, 21 walks, 72 k’s, 2.82 era, 1.05 whip, .208 BAA

    Final answer- player A is doug fister- player B, Justin Verlander. How can this guy get MVP votes when down the stretch (albeit by a small margin), he hasn’t even been the best pitch on his team when it has mattered most?

  50. Surreality says:

    Kyle Litke,

    They could have at least started a major league pitcher. It was clear that they had no interest in winning that game. Did the Yankees have the “right” to do what they did? Sure… But it wasn’t exactly great sportsmanship and I’m just hoping karma from that bites them in the arse. The Red Sox certainly deserve most of the blame for their own collapse though, don’t get me wrong.

  51. NMark W says:

    Kyle: “The Red Sox certainly deserve most of the blame for their own collapse, don’t get me wrong”…?

    If it’s only “most” what part don’t they deserve? They went 7-20 in September; they didn’t win 2 consecutive games I believe for well over a month. Just accept “all” of the blame and it appears that the Red Sox front office, Francona and the team are doing that, so good for them.

  52. Surreality says:

    Well, the Yankees (arguably) mailing in the final series against TB was a small contributing factor but, yeah, I still tend to agree with you, if the Sox go better than 2-5 against the bloody Orioles, we’re not having this discussion so it’s pretty much all their own fault. Stoking the Yankee hatred just made me feel a tiny bit better.:)

    I’m very angry with the Red Sox for making Francona a scapegoat and consider that an extremely cowardly move. Epstein should man up and take responsibility for not putting the team in better position to win instead of letting Tito take the fall. But that’s another topic…

  53. Win you own damn games, you don’t have to worry about how another team, preparing for the playoffs, plays against another team.

  54. sellrsgold says:

    I am extremely furious with all the Crimson Sox for making Francona any scapegoat and take into account that a very cowardly shift. Epstein must person upward as well as be responsible because of not adding the group inside better position to be able to earn rather than enabling Tito consider the fall. But that is yet another subject matter…

  55. […] As Toronto manager John Gibbons emptied his bench, it dawned on me that Dan Johnson would be coming into the game for the Blue Jays. Johnson is one of the most famous unknown players in baseball. He played for the Tampa Bay Rays in two different stints, in 2008 and then again from 2010-11, and hit arguably the two biggest home runs in the history of the franchise. Both of them rescued the Rays’ drowning playoff hopes, three Septembers apart. At Tropicana Field, where the Rays play their home games, there’s a seat painted white in a sea of blue ones to commemorate the second of Johnson’s shots heard round the world. It was the key plot point in a night so memorable across the baseball landscape that the legendary sportswriter Joe Posnanski dubbed it “Baseball Night in America.” […]

  56. […] Baseball Night in America | Joe Blogs Joe Posnanski said it best: " I never argue with people who say baseball is boring, because baseball is boring. And then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s what makes it great." __________________ Collecting Texas Rangers – Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, Leonys Martin, Ian Kinsler – LMK what you have!! […]

  57. […] stalwarts (read: older, white males) to tell the rest of us why the detractors are wrong. “Baseball, like life, revolves around anticlimax,” says long-time baseball writer Joe Posnanski. “The game is defined not by constant awe-inspiring […]

  58. Chris S says:

    This is still my favorite Posnanski article ever.

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