Monday, October 1, 2007

Phillies win NL East, so Cubs must win World Series (it's gonna happen)

Well, the Royals' season is over, and it ended in a loss. We'll come back with the proper season-ending words in due time, but as there are plenty of teams still playing, we're now going to shift gears. This blog will trundle on through October, one of the greatest months in sports.

Chris Trotman/Getty; Kathy Willens/AP

"Pride goeth before the fall." --Ron Darling (or Keith Hernandez?), Sports New York (SNY), Sunday
"We've got so much talent, I think sometimes we get bored." --Carlos Delgado, WFAN, Sept. 21

"Says the bitch who was on a slump and got his hand broken." --Kirby-Star, IGN message board

The MFY made a charge at the Red Sox, but it turns out the collapse we should have been watching came from the other league.

Is it better to have loved and lost (Mets) or never loved at all (Royals)? I'm not sure. But do consider the following and decide whether you could handle this happening to your favorite team:
  • The Mets became first team in Major League history to blow seven-game lead with only 17 to play.
  • The Mets' chances of making the postseason as of Sept. 12 was 99.8 percent. They had a 500-to-1 shot against of not making the playoffs.
  • According to the link in the above-bullet point, this was the second worst collapse in baseball history. Whenever those two words are used together -- baseball history -- I think we all make an implicit mental note that baseball history spans two World Wars and 18 presidents, which means there's at least more than an outside chance that we may have just witnessed something we will never, ever again see.

I have Mets-rooting friends, and I'm afraid to talk to them right now. What does one say? Do you say you know how they feel? Because, really, since this is unprecedented, we have no idea how they feel. Trying to comfort a Mets fan would almost make me feel guilty -- yes, my team lost 93 games, but at least they didn't make you feel like you just got gutted with a serrated kitchen knife.

Darling/Hernandez, SNY, bottom of 9th: "I'll tell ya, if they don't rally, this is a moment when you sit in front of your locker and the whole season passes in front of you , and it's almost -- I don't want to equate it to death -- but it just goes by so quickly and you remember all those little moments, things that might have been."

Hernandez/Darling: "Well, this is an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."

Tom Mihalek/AP

"We're the team to beat." --Jimmy Rollins, Feb. 20

"I got here earlier than the players. Couldn't sleep last night." --Chris Wheeler, Phillies color commentator who accompanies the great Harry Kalas, Sunday

For the record, I haven't heard a regular season crowd as loud as the one at Citizens Bank Park in the 9th inning, right after the scoreboard revealed the Mets had lost. There was a momentary pause to the frenzy before they turned it on again just before a two-strike pitch to the first batter. I feared the volume of the noise after the final strikeout would blow out my computer's speakers.

I think Gene Mauch can sleep easier from now on.

And in case you were wondering how Shea fans reacted after the Mets' final out: they booed. Loudly.

One more thing, in case you don't think baseball is karmic: the Phillies franchise lost their 10,000th game this season.

This leads to only one possible conclusion: the Cubs will win the World Series. I would bet my house on it, if I had a house.

POSTCRIPT: With Coldplay playing in the background, either Ron Darling or Keith Hernandez of SNY said, "There is too much focus today in this game, I think, on statistics, and you know what, the game's gotta be won on the field. There's a human element in basbell. Just like in war, you can have all your high-tech strategic bombings, but guess what? What wins the wars is the grunts in the trenches."

I think that's about as wrong an interpretation of statistics and as egregious a war metaphor as you'll encounter anywhere.
POSTSCRIPT 2: I can't leave without mentioning my favorite team of September, the Rockies. I'll let Derek Jacques of Baseball Prospectus take it away:
Two weeks ago, over at Sports Illustrated’s web site, I noted the Colorado Rockies' 2.1% chances at making the postseason, per the Playoff Odds Report, and I wrote:

In the NL West, the Rockies’ surge into contention was a little like a meteor shower– no sooner do you notice it’s happening than it’s over.

A strange thing happened almost immediately after those words went out to my editor. Colorado won, and won, and kept on winning...