Game 162

Wild Deuces

Friday night, Twitter was abuzz with the memory of Game 162 from the year before.  Remember that?  I called them the “Greatest Games Ever Played.”

The Mets were done with their season earlier that day, and I was still attached to the television.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off the games.  Thank goodness for MLB Network that night.  I was able to see the Curse of the Andino take place, the Rays beat the Yankees (where even Yankee fans were rooting for the Rays), Cardinals won (and went on to win the World Series) and the Braves lost.

It was the best of times.

Then Uncle Bud Selig decided that we needed a longer playoff season, so he instituted the second Wild Card.  Most of us lamented the loss of Game 162 ever happening again.  That maybe the playoff set up would make things a little more cut-and-dry.  That we wouldn’t see anything as amazing in baseball as watching every single pitch of several games again.

Yeah.  We might need to rethink that philosophy.

In my 20+ years of being a baseball fan, the second wild card has added an element that I find significantly more interesting that just watching the divisional races.  It also, in my most humble opinion, almost eliminates the idea of “predictions.”  Because if that was the case, we were all DEAD FUCKING WRONG on the Baltimore Orioles (seriously, didn’t we pick them to finish dead last pretty much in the AL East?).

But now, along with seeing the locks for the playoffs, the Reds, the Nats, the Braves, the Giants.  But the rest is up in the air.  Even the Nats and the Braves are making things interesting, whichever of those teams doesn’t win the NL East will get the wild card.  Insanity times infinity.

The American League provides us with a little bit of interest.  Baltimore, Oakland, even the Angels still have a fighting chance.  Texas Rangers have been in first most of the year and would you look at that?  They had a rain out (IN TEXAS! WHERE IT NEVER FRIGGIN RAINS!!) against the Angels, and may need to play a doubleheader on a Sunday, with three games left in the season basically.

No team has clinched a spot in the AL and it just gets more and more interesting by the day — to the extent that I feel like there’s almost a playoff vibe going on now.  As I write, the Orioles won tonight and have tied the Yankees who lost earlier in the day.  We go back to last year where team’s fan bases are rooting against their own teams — as my friend Sully said, the Red Sox season is meaningless now, and they’re just trying to finish it out.  Why not play spoiler, and make Red Sox fans MORE happy by making the Yankee country squirm a bit?  (And let’s be fair – it’s probably just easier for the Red Sox to lose down the stretch).

A few weeks ago, I went to Chicago to see the White Sox play the Tigers…the game ended up getting rained out (boo!), but the reality is, one of those teams is going to win the AL Central.  The other will just go home.

I used to kind of get bored during the September wrap ups, when it was almost a given that the Yankees make the playoffs, the Red Sox make the Wild Card and the rest of the league duke it out.  Of course, it didn’t help that the Mets never did that well and I was basically treading water as a fan.

I thought the second Wild Card would make things less interesting and that teams that probably didn’t deserve playing in the postseason would merely be doing so.  In watching these stories unfold, I have to say that whatever teams make truly deserve it.  They worked hard to get there.

I don’t agree much with what Bud Selig does.  I do have to say that with the second Wild Card implementation, I could very much get behind that for the future.

And with that, maybe what the Mayans predicted IS true.

The Greatest Game(s) Ever Played

I usually get all warm and mushy for the last game of the season.  This year was weird.  Typically, the baseball season ends on a Sunday, and I get all weepy and nostalgic the last weekend.  Since the Mets’ season ended on a Wednesday, the last weekend didn’t hold the same feelings of sadness and longing as in previous years.

The Mets finished their season around 3:30 pm on Wednesday.  Little did I know, that the last day of baseball had yet to begin.

The greatest thing about baseball are the different subthemes in each game.  Every game has a story.  This year, we had four stories to watch.  The starring roles were to be played by: the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees; the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox; the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros; and the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

To say that this Mets fan had a vested interest in these games was an understatement.  I have a thing for the Red Sox, as in the “enemy of the enemy is my friend,” etc etc.  Although I have to say, I wouldn’t have minded them not making the playoffs; after all, they were pretty much anointed the World Series Champs with the signing of Carl Crawford in the offseason and trading for Adrian Gonzalez.  I like the Orioles too; I had just spent a day at Camden Yards with a Yankee fan that we called the “Bird Bowl” (as the Blue Jays were their opponent), and she even chronicled that trip in this column (follow Amanda on Twitter @amandarykoff…she is a good Yankee fan and super cool).


I also happened to fall in love with Robert Andino that day…they have this great mid-inning entertainment clip called “Andino at the Movies,” where he regales us with movie reviews.  Trust me, it’s comedy in its highest form.

Did I like the way the Yankees just laid down for the Rays?  No.  But I did like the Rays’ team (although they were eliminated from their amazing late-season run earlier today).  I certainly would have liked them to make the Wild Card over the Red Sox, but I guess that’s because the Sox have become a more “moneyball” version of the Yanks (which I guess makes no sense, but I guess if you follow baseball, you get it).

I certainly wanted to see the Cardinals make the postseason over the Braves.  Which meant a win by the Cards and a loss by the Braves.

There was something else eating at me too here.  The fact that if the Sox and the Braves both lost their playoff bids, this would mean I wouldn’t have to hear about the Mets “choking” in September anymore.  I mean, talk about losing their playoff bid on the last day of the season.

Yet, I couldn’t even script how Game 162 would end for these teams.  I thought for sure we’d see some Game 163s going on.  No, these teams decided to take care of business the traditional way: backs against the wall and no shortage of drama.

At the beginning of the day, I’d thought the only dramatic thing I’d be watching was whether Ryan Braun would go 3-for-4 and Jose Reyes’ bunt single in his only at-bat on Wednesday would be for naught.  For Mets fans who wanted something cheer, we got it, and Braun was a non-entity. But hey, his team had already been decided to go to the playoffs, plus he’s almost as close to a lock for MVP if there ever was one.

On a night like this, I can thank goodness for MLB Network.  This gave us the opportunity to keep tabs on all the results.  Since it was technically the last game of the season, I didn’t realize just how glued to my TV I would be.

I was.

I guess the easiest game of the night was the Cardinals.  They won, fair and square, and the only thing they had to do was wait for the Braves to win or lose.  Braves win, they’d play the next day.  Braves lose, Cards were going to play the Phillies in the NLDS.

The real drama occurred over the AL East though.  It looked like the Yankees forgot they were trying to do their part in trying to eliminate their Boston rivals.  Pretty soon though, Rays’ late inning heroics shined through, and they scored seven runs to tie the game up.  I thought for sure the Yankees were throwing meatballs to the Rays to will them to win.  Think what you want, but it was suspect they didn’t bring in their lights-out arms in the bullpen at this juncture.  Then again, the Yankees really didn’t have anything to play for except make Boston suffer.  I’d say they succeeded.

Then the unthinkable happened.  It might not have been that outlandish, but seeing Jonathan Papelbon blow another late inning save wasn’t that story.  It was the fact that Robert Andino is going to haunt Red Sox fans’ dreams (or nightmares).  My friend @2131 and Beyond (an Orioles focused blogger) calls this night “The Curse of the Andino.”  I hope he knows, I do plan to use that one.

I felt bad for friends like Sully, who is as die hard for Boston as they come.  I also know how much they irk Yankees fans.  But to me, the collapse was redemption for me, as a Mets fan, who has been the butt of so many jokes since 2007.  Kranepool Society said “It gets better” to Red Sox fans, but I disagree.  Things have gotten progressively worse for us Mets fans, but I can hope that since other teams have taken the pressure off, perhaps we can all move on.

Same for the Braves.  I think most Mets fans dislike Chipper Jones, but respect the hell out of him.  I know I do.  Some folks were upset that they wouldn’t play in another postseason.  Why, so they won’t make it out of the first round?  I think the Cardinals are certainly more worthy, they worked very hard to get there.

The best part was watching the Rays game unfold.  I said on Twitter that I was going to call it, that the Rays would win it right after the Red Sox lost.

And they did.  Evan Longoria continued to build up his rep with a walk-off home run.  I’d like to think they won that game on pure guts, but I’m pretty sure they were gifted that win.

But who cares?  You might have been able to script these games the way we wanted to, or you might not have.  The thing is, each team kept us guessing to the very end.  Some people might argue that there is nothing more dramatic than a Game 163 or a Game 7 situation.  I’d disagree.  Game 162 2011 version was potentially one of the best nights of baseball I have ever witnessed in my many decades as a fan.  I may recognize October heartbreak, I may not have seen my team win anything in recent years and be humiliated.  That does not mean I have not seen the best that this game can give me.

This is my song for the 2011 season.  The Mets may have not finished where I wanted them to…but I wouldn’t have wanted the season to finish any other way.