It was a night that changed the perceptions of baseball amongst even the most casual fans. The 162 game season has been chastised in the past for dragging out way too long. Especially when many teams don't have much to play for in the waning weeks. Football is commonly believed to be the new #1 sport in the US, but that game is largely just 3 hours of play followed by 144 hours of analysis and breakdown. Football welcomes the casual, attention deficit fan who wants to see sports as a hobby. Following baseball is a part time job. And yet after 5 months and over 2,400 games played, day number 162 was every bit the emotional roller coaster as any week of football in history.
You'll have to bear with me while I try to compile reasonable, and coherent thoughts on the happenings of last night. With so much occurring at such a late hour, it's tough to differentiate what was seen and what was just a dream.
Jose Reyes batting title...The first controversy of the day goes to Jose Reyes and his decision to duck out of the final game of the season after bunting for a single in the first inning. Entering the day a few decimal points ahead of Ryan Braun in the batting title race, Reyes might be the only guy in baseball I can imagine with the audacity to even try such a stunt.Especially in front of his home crowd in what could very well be his last game in a Mets uniform. I could almost begin to understand his logic if there was a stipulation in his current contract that gave him a bonus for a batting title, but there isn't. In fact, MLB doesn't allow contract bonuses for that very reason. If he believes that adding a batting title to his resume is going to outweigh the negative publicity he receives for this move, he's sorely mistaken. The MLB owners are a network of good-old-boys who take note of selfish acts by players and have blackballed guys for similarly tainted acts. Jose Reyes will get his contract considering the value of a speedy, high average hitting, SS in his prime, but his suitors won't be blind to the fact that he just put the name on the back ahead of the one on the front.
The Cardinals...With their drubbing of the Astros, the St. Louis Cardinals have won (?) the opportunity to bring their team to Philadelphia. But with Chris Carpenter throwing 8 innings yesterday, don't expect to see him until game 3. That means the Phillies will see Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse face Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. And while the Phillies only managed a 3-6 record on the season against the red birds (one of only 2 teams they held a losing record against), two of those games were virtually meaningless and their run differential was virtually identical at 32-34. Not a single one of those games featured a Phillies lineup at full strength (at least two of Gload/Schneider/Valdez/Martinez/Orr/Sardinha/etc. started each game). The Cards march out a rotation that has given the Phils some problems but on paper is incredibly pedestrian. Once they have to hand the ball over to the bullpen, it's open season on runs. Plus, we all know that Ryan Howard kills it against his hometown Cardinals with the Howard family in the stands.
The Red Sox...You'd think that giving a Gold Glove left fielder and former MVP candidate a $142M contract would inspire a little hustle in the outfield when a potential season ending and franchise destroying fly ball headed his direction, but you'd be wrong. In a season riddled with disappointment for which Crawford already apologized for, the botched line drive was just the icing on the cake. That's a play that pre-2011 Crawford makes on the regular. But the past month has truly been a team collapse. On September 1st, the Red Sox were at a 99.3% to make playoffs. A virtual certainty. And yet, brutal pitching performances, lack of hitting by anyone not named Ellsbury, and an inability to win back to back games sealed Boston's fate as being the first team to lose out on a playoff spot after having a lead of at least 9 games entering September. Those black clouds that rolled into Baltimore and delayed the game during the 7th inning rained failure all over Red Sox Nation. Now, the team that made some of the biggest splashes last off-season is faced with the likelihood of ditching either their manager or general manager just to shake up their $163M locker room.
The Rays...After losing their closer and All-Star left fielder to division rivals, most figured the Rays were dead in the water this year. Fortunately, no one told Joe Maddon that. Behind the Red Sox by 9? No problem. Down 7-0 in the 8th inning? No Problem. Down to your very last strike with one run to go? No problem. The Rays played their hearts out the past few weeks with recipe of one parts dominant pitching, one parts timely hitting, and a dash of inning ending triple play magic. The game tying and winning HRs hugged their respective foul poles to a distance not much greater than the 315' it takes to reach the wall and the 11.5' height it takes to clear them at Tropicana Field.
The Yankees...As if the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry needed more fuel to it's fire, Red Sox Nation was helpless as they watched the Yankees roll over to the Rays. New York hasn't blown a 7 run lead entering the 8th inning since 1953! That was almost 10,000 games ago! And with their $15M setup man Rafael Soriano and their recently anointed greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera, sitting on the bench, the Yankees sat by and watched the combination of Boone Logan and Luis Ayala proceed to give up 6 runs on 4 hits and a walk. Then, to take that knife in the Red Sox back and twist it just a little bit farther, the Yankees brought in Scott Proctor. This is a guy who had given up 6ERs in his past two appearances and whose ERA actually went down by giving up a game winning HR. Evan Longoria taking him deep is probably the least surprising thing that happened the whole game!
The Braves...Similarly to Boston, Atlanta entered September with a 97.8% chance to make playoffs. On September 1st, Cardinals fans were busy saying their goodbyes to Albert Pujols, not planning playoff trips. What compromises the anatomy of such an epic collapse? Pitching injuries? Youth fading down the stretch? Disappointing performances by aging veterans? Or is Atlanta just breeding a culture of choking? From Brooks Conrad's eight errors in the final seven games of 2010 to Craig Kimbrel and Johnny Venters' September collapse in 2010, the Braves just can't get the job done like they used to. How does Dan Uggla not score from 2nd on the line drive to right field in the 6th? How does Jack Wilson punt the ball in the 7th? How do the Braves only muster 3 hits in 5 innings of work from rookie pitchers? With a Washington team that is stocked with young talent, just how big is the Braves window for success?
Where you been all my life, Cholly...?Last night's win gives Charlie Manual a career 646-488 record with Phillies. That's good for a .570 win percentage and an average of 92.34 wins per years while tenured with the Phillies. That means his AVERAGE season with the Phils would have been good enough to win the Wild Card in either league this year. Just how good is a .570 win percentage? Well, if the Phillies had a franchise win percentage of .570, they'd be sitting at 11,131 wins which would make them the winningest franchise in US sports history. The 10,000 loss milestone would have taken 143.55 years to reach instead of the 125 years that ended in 2007.Charlie currently sits at #21 on the career win percentage list as a manager and 8 of those guys ahead of him did it in fewer seasons.
- How lame are "Wild Card" t-shirts?
- The folks at ESPN sure were close with their post season predictions, huh?
- The Phillies never had the best record in baseball in 125+ years prior to last year. Now they've done it twice in a row
- What happens to all the extra champagne that was likely staged in the Braves and Red Sox locker rooms? Do they ship it off to a 3rd world country like they do with all those pre-printed t-shirts for the losing team?
- The Phillies announced the Domonic Brown, Joe Savery, and Justin De Fratus would be headed to the Instructional League this fall, but I'm hearing rumors that the might keep Savery around as a 2nd left hander in case of injury. It doesn't hurt that he can swing the bat in a pinch!
- Matt Holliday is back in the playoffs despite STILL not having touched home plate back in 2007...
- Be sure to check out Bob Vetrone's "Blogathon" where he provides interesting Phillies tidbits once an hour from the end of last night's game through first pitch on Saturday.