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Home » Baseball

Heart Attacks

Submitted by on September 29, 2011 – 3:46 PM32 Comments

Wow. WOW.

I feel bad for Braves and Sox fans, I do. God knows I understand what it's like to watch a team floundering (although, when you give up hope of contending in, like, the 1800s, it's not as painful when it all goes, or stays, wrong). But it's probably the most exciting night of baseball I've witnessed. My favorite moment is a little hard to explain, but MLB Tonight had film of Harold Reynolds and Dan Plesac reacting to the Baltimore win and the Longoria homer with sheer boyish disbelieving joy — like, Reynolds is out of his chair and jumping around at the back of the set, unable to contain himself, and they have to do it completely silently because, at that moment, the network is rolling other footage onscreen with Greg Amsinger narrating it, so they have to freak out to each other without a sound until the action onscreen catches up. Plesac is cursing and looking all around like DID I JUST SEE THAT and he looks about 11 years old, and there's Reynolds sproinging around like Yosemite Sam in the background while Plesac flaps his arms. Delightful. (Thanks to Deadspin, you can see for yourself.)

And Amsinger — what a pro. He kept all those plates in the air last night no problem, and then, after everything had ended, they rolled Longoria's HR once more and I sat on the couch and just…laughed, because…what the hell. Amsinger probably had a scripted VO, but instead of talking, he just…laughed, because…what the hell. When they cut back to him, he shrugged all, "Baseball: it rules. What can I say."

And it's over for another year, regular-season-wise. I'll get some postseason open threads going later on, but let's wrap up the 162, shall we?

The Mets. Going into the season, I expected a sub-.400 effort — without assuming injuries to the stars, or that Johan Santana's arm would continue the process of falling off. That they flirted with .500 for most of the year and didn't give up on things (mostly) is a credit to the team, and to Collins. We got to see a few kids come up and make a difference, which is exciting and promising, and if Alderson can get some pitching over the winter, the Mets might make some gains next year.

I liked the moves I saw Alderson making; he dealt smartly with K-Rod and Beltran. I didn't sense the interference of Jeff "It's Like The Sims, Right?" Wilpon, so apparently he and Collins found a way to keep Junior at bay.

As far as the Reyes/batting-title flapdoodle from yesterday: the "Ted Williams would NEVER have" bah bah yammering is irrelevant. Ted Williams "would never" do a lot of things, because Ted Williams is a dead guy, so leave him out of it. Players and managers have tried to game the batting-average crown since the dawn of time (see: Cobb v. Lajoie, 1910), but you always have people who consider a player acting in his own individual interests a violation of some sandlot code that is not necessarily going to pertain to a professional in the entertainment business. Fans have romantic notions about honor and fire in the belly; players have jobs to do. Get over it. I mean, yes, baseball has wonderful, thrilling hero arcs, and I like to get misty about the narrative better than anyone — but it's Reyes's career, and he's maneuvering himself into a position to get a big raise. He wants a batting title, and to not re-injure the hamstring. Should he have stayed in the game longer from a 162nd-game, fan-service standpoint? Probably. But the fans who boo him for leaving the game — and then boo Turner for coming in, like, they do need to field a complete nine out there, assholes — will boo him for everything, forever.

Reyes had an exciting year, he has superstar talent, and he is just not going to give you 150 games a year. Wherever he ends up, they'd better have their eyes open about that.

Overall, an encouraging season. I look forward to 2012. And not just to watch the Mets…

Guillen to the Marlins. Ozzie Guillen managing Logan Morrison and Hanley Ramirez. I just…I can't wait! It's like a human Pop-Rocks-and-Coke experiment! I may teach myself to lip-read Spanish over the winter, just to get more out of that soap opera.

Grading the SI predictions. Every year, I swear I'll save the Sports Illustrated baseball preview so I can check their work at the end of the season; this year, I actually prevented myself from recycling it on April 10th, although I almost threw the issue away about a hundred times after that because I resented the stupid Phillies staring up at me from the side table with their stupid smug awesome-pitcher-y faces. (I may have Sharpied a peen onto Oswalt. I'm not proud of it.) (The peen itself, I mean. It looks like a failed rocket prototype. I suck at drawing.)

SI made a lot of predictions that didn't work out, but most of them made total sense at the time, even if I didn't entirely agree (Bosox v. Giants in the World Series, for instance — thought Philly would probably get that gig, but had no real problem with the San Francisco guess). Almost everyone called the AL East for Boston; almost nobody thought Carl Crawford would suck as loudly as he did (SI had him for an MVP contender), or that Posey would go out for the season and nobody else would hit. SI had the Twins winning the AL Central, and I concurred at the time — you know that way the Twins have of puttering around in the far reaches of the standings for four months and then you turn around and they're right behind you. Even when Liriano went down, I didn't think it would get as bad as it got.

Still, the subhed biffed it pretty badly: "Remember the Comedy Central awash so long in mediocrity and midsized payrolls? It's now a high-rent district — and the Twins rule." Except it wasn't, and they didn't; after the Indians finally fell to earth, they were giving that lead away with a free toaster for like six weeks; nobody could pull it together and win. It's more like the Tigers sucked less.

Other understandable but incorrect guesses included King Felix repeating as Cy Young winner; "I don't expect a drop-off from [Ichiro!] at all"; the Mets dead last in the NL East and the Marlins not spitting every bit in the stable; Heyward as an MVP candidate (Braves fans: what's going on with that guy? I wanted that to come true. I like Heyward. Is he still hurt? What's with the .319 OBP? He looks lost out there); the Reds repeating as tops of the NL Central and Votto as an MVP contender; Berkman as a major mistake for St. Louis (totally cosigned that at the time; totally love that Pumes went on a diet, batted like 4.382 for springtime, and made us all eat it — good for that guy); the Rockies in the hunt; and of course the Diamondbacks in dead last. Arizona has looked better than their record to me for a couple of years, so I'd have called them to finish at .500, but first? No way. "Baseball Today" started mentioning Ian Kennedy in July, probably, and I just assumed that it was a different Ian Kennedy, and the one I'd seen with the Yankees died or went to business school or something. Nobody could have predicted that.

Or this: "Adam Dunn brings balance. He'll strike out, but he's a threat to make something happen every time he's up. He is going to get on base and score a lot of runs." Oh, dear.

But that's why they play the games, as they say, and SI got a lot of things right — the decline of Chase Utley; various RoY hopefuls. The only inexplicable prediction in retrospect is the Athletics winning the AL West, which I didn't get even then, since even SI didn't think they'd hit much and I saw no reason — save maybe the Angels — that Texas wouldn't dominate again in '11.

We'll see each other back here for cheering/sackcloth throughout the postseason; get those bets ready, because it's almost time to raise a little money for Pitch In For Baseball. In the meantime — how ya feelin'? Need to hate on Fredi or defend Francona? Worried about your team's postseason chances? Are you the Astros fan? (hee. I'm sorry! They were good not that long ago!) Let it out. Let it allllll out.

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32 Comments »

  • mctwin says:

    Oh, DEAR GOD!! Last night was INSANE! I read an article today about how this last day of the regular season was the most perfect, heart-stopping finish ever… and then I wanted to read your take on it! Thank you for your entry and for finding that clip! Unadulterated shock and joy! That's what life is about!

    Now, let's go Phillies!! All the way!

  • Marie says:

    I must say, as a Yankees fan plunged deep into the heart of Red Sox Nation, I am experiencing a wonderful amount schadenfreude this morning. Mostly because now they can stop bringing up 2004 as the "worst choke job evah!"

  • Reader Gretchen says:

    And, how about those Brewers?

  • Marv in DC says:

    I have to say that I feel really bad for the Sox fans who have been fans forever,(or least before 2004) that's gotta hurt and I feel bad for you guys. To the "fans" that only joined in 2004 and later (unless you are a small child or what not) this couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people.

    Then again I'm a Nats fan and just proud they almost made it to .500.

  • Hannah says:

    Watched all four games simultaneously at a Lee Roy Selmon's (RIP) restaurant in Bradenton (just south of Tampa). Did a shot of Goldschlager three seconds before the Orioles pulled it out. Three minutes later, when Longo hit that homer, we were jumping up and down and sprinting around the bar with the kitchen staff.

    I love that this will be a "I remember where I was when…" sports moments.

  • Meredith says:

    I threw away my SI baseball predictions *because* of that clunker predicting the Athletics winning the AL West. SI simply cannot believe in the Rangers winning. I know they haven't had many occasions to do so, but after next year, predicting third place in the division? Really?

    I do have to say, though, that it's so weird to hear national announcers falling over themselves to speak well of the Rangers! My mom and I were watching a game on ESPN over the phone (her in TX, me in PA) and the announcers were talking about the "inevitability" of their postseason this year by mentioning they've "won the division four times in the last 16 years!" as if that's a really lot, and not saying "four times in the last 37 years" like they could. It's nice, though.

    Now my mom and I have to stock up on calming things so our blood pressures don't go through the roof over the next (hopefully!) month. How do you get used to being a postseason fan? It's nerve wracking!!

  • jennie says:

    Last night was terrible, but I'm not sure the Red Sox's loss was on the same order as NY dropping the 2004 ALCS, as choke jobs go. Can it even be a choke job, if the result is utterly expected? What's amazing is that the Sox were still in it at all after a month-long death swoon like September. There are a number of factors which other people elsewhere on the internet have commented on more intelligently than me (Lackey, injuries, pitching failures, Lackey, bizarre mental mistakes, bad plays, bats going quiet, Lackey…)but as much as it hurts me, the Sox couldn't put two in a row in the win column in September, and if you can't do that… it's going to be an awfully short playoff season for you, then, isn't it. Part of me is glad to be out of my misery? And part of me wants to light things on fire. So it goes.

    For my part, I knew it was over when Dan Shaughnessy showed up at NESN during the rain delay to flap his asshole yap about how the Rays were "out of it" with New York's seven run lead. Hate that guy.

  • Jessica says:

    Dude, I got nothin'. Other than maybe the Cardinals won't go three-and-out the way the Braves would have if they had made the playoffs.

    And I feel a little bad for Chipper, who apparently had to simultaneously be team spokesman and the only one who knew how to not overswing.

  • Rachel says:

    Wait, baseball is still happening? I checked out of the Mets season sometime in late August.

  • Another Elizabeth says:

    I agree entirely with you on the subject of the Twins, since they've done that right behind you thing to my Tigers quite a few times over the past decade, so picking them to win the Central doesn't seem at all implausible to me. Thank God they have the new stadium — we just could not win in the Terrordome when it counted.

    Last night, I saw the Rays down 0-7 somewhere around the seventh and thought "well, that's it then." O me of little faith. I have a friend who's a die-hard Florida sports fan, a fairly dignified professor in his early sixties, and I'm absolutely certain he was sproinging around his living room just like Reynolds in that clip.

    (And the clip? Fabulous. It's one of my favorite things, folks just losing their shit from happiness like that.)

    Someone on Deadspin pointed out that Rob Parker scolded Reyes with "Derek Jeter would never have done something like that," except he did pretty much exactly that in 2008, to keep his average above .300. Of all the things sports analysts do to impose narrative structure, the deification of certain players at the expense of others is probably the one that annoys me most, especially when it's done in open defiance of the facts. It's a shame, because I'm sure Jeter is a perfectly nice guy, but the Saint Derek thing really makes me hate him.

    I'm super-worried about the Tigers because of that tear they went on shortly before the season ended — look, I know, I know, "streaks" are not a quantifiable thing, except… they happen, and I worry that they've expended too much energy too close to the postseason. I'm also worried that Verlander's coach and four is going to turn back into a pumpkin, again without any particular reason except "he's been doing ridiculously well, and that has to end sometime." It doesn't, right? He can keep it going, right? He's going to pull a Kenny Rogers against the Yanks and shut them out with pitching advice from the moon, RIGHT??

    Ugh. Maybe I'll just focus on the Lions, where there isn't as much at stake as yet, except my fond hopes of them seeing the Bills in the Super Bowl. (Not to hijack a baseball thread, but: WHAT THE HELL, NFL.)

  • Rachel says:

    Ugh. I almost got last night out of my mind. ;) 13 innings and losing to the f****(reakin) Phillies just put the cherry on top of this season- well, should I say, this month. Yeah, this is gonna leave a sour taste in my mouth for quite awhile.

    Doesn't mean I'll stop hoping though. Every single year.

  • Liz says:

    @Another Elizabeth – Verlander is a competitor. My prediction is that we will see his best pitching of the season in the next couple of weeks.

    @Sars – I take issue with "it's more like the Tigers sucked less". The Tigers went 12-0 against the Indians, White Sox and Twins in September. That's buying your opponents when you need to (with some pretty awesome baseball on top of it).

    Can't wait for CC vs. Verlander tonight. Watch out, New York!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    The Tigers went 12-0 against the Indians, White Sox and Twins in September.

    Well, that's kind of my point. Yes, they beat who they needed to beat — but my grandmother went 12-0 against the Twins this season and she died in '92.

    The Tigers have a good team — Cabrera's had a great year; Verlander, enough said; Valverde is…something special (hee). They're better than they've been given credit for, and it's kind of like that old joke about what do they call the guy who graduates last in his med school class ("…Doctor"). They got here, by whatever means. But that they got here by playing primarily against weak-sauce divisional opponents is not irrelevant.

    That said, I think they win the LDS in five. They'd better or half my pool slate is toast.

    Also: Francona's out, I just read on Hardball Talk? Anyone have thoughts? I actually really admire that guy; he'll do well elsewhere. I don't like that he got fired for the outcome of 2011, if that's the case. If it's that they think they need a fresh set of eyes on the problem, well, just say that. Certainly it was true of Torre after a certain point.

  • Melanie says:

    Wednesday night was an amazing night of baseball. I actually had an inkling that the Rays were going to come back, when it was bases loaded with no outs in the 8th.

    As a Braves fan, all I can say is, my heart is broken. That and "why the fuck did Fredi pitch to Pence with first base open?"

  • Marv in DC says:

    I heard it was more Francona that wanted to leave since the White Sox job opened up and I guess he managed one of their minor league teams.

  • Lazeeper says:

    What an amazing night of baseball! I had three games on at once, and was narrating two of them for my SO, who was stuck in a hotel without either the Braves or Cardinal games (we are Cardinal fans). This is why I'm a fan of the game, not just a team.

    Thanks for the link, Sars. I didn't see that moment and it's priceless.

  • Amanda says:

    Do not be sad, disappointed TNers! I would like to welcome y'all to the Watching the Postseason Couch. I've been here since April.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on NL CYA/MVP? I don't want to come off too biased, but, er. It's just that but from the discussions I have seen on Twitter, a lot of people actually have no idea how good both Kershaw and Kemp have been this season — as if the fact that the Dodgers sucked mitigates their individual performances. (I don't mean strictly people who think someone on a bad team can't win these awards; I also include people who haven't noticed, because the team is so bad.) Generally speaking, if you want to argue someone else was better, fine, but don't discount how impressive these two were this year.

    Likewise impressive is the Dodgers finishing with an 82-79 record. We're number 3! We're number 3!

    Vin's coming back. Everything else is gravy.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I'm fascinated by the MVP arguments in particular, because it really does depend on whether you think "valuable" means "best numbers, regardless of how the team did" — or "best performance in aid of a winning season for the team." I'd rather see the former win the awards, because I don't think it's fair to penalize the player for the fact that his team/manager/ownership group/whatever may have been fucking up.

    So, I'm behind a Kemp win. Kershaw, I don't know. He's had a great year, he'll be around for a while, but…when you face the Giants' "lineup" that many times? Not exactly a murderer's row, that division.

    Props to the Dodgers generally, though, and gutting it out to an over-.500 season with all that nonsense going on.

  • Rachel says:

    I'm with you, Sars. I'd much rather see the MVP go to a dude who maybe had a GREAT year on a mediocre team than a guy who had an okay year on the Yankees or whatever.

  • Drew says:

    @ Sars: Except that the Indians and White Sox were both still very much in contention against Detroit when that streak started, less than 5 games behind. Their records started to suck because the Tigers turned on the juice at the right time and kicked the crap out of them. The run in August and September also included taking 2/3 from Texas (4/6 for the season) and 3/4 from Tampa. They haven't played the Yankees since the beginning of the year, but they took that season series, too, and that was before they got Betamit, Young, and especially, Doug Fister, who's actually pitched better than Verlander since the trade. Compare the Yankees' record against those weak opponents, and they have a winning percentage of .611 versus Detroit's .694. I'm biased, but I think the Tigers are a lot better than they've been given credit for.

  • Laura says:

    I'd left the den, where I'd just seen the outcome of the Red Sox game via an mlb.com video, and went to the living room to update husband, who, it turns out, had been flipping back and forth between Red Sox/Orioles and Yankees/Rays. I leaned against the doorway and said, "Now we just need the Rays to win this game," just before the home run won it for Tampa Bay. I try to be "live and let live" with baseball rivalries, but let the Sox/Yanks rivalry goad me into briefly rooting for my team to lose a game, just so the Sox decline would be complete. I'm with @Marie — now Sox fans can stop yammering about 2004. Ever since the unbalanced schedules came about (yep, still not liking them), we see too darn much of the Red Sox and not enough of the other AL teams. Now all we have to do is beat Verlander a couple of times and pitch around Cabrera in a short series. Uh, yeah. :)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Drew, we basically agree re: the Tigers being better than they've been given credit for — but saying that "the Indians and White Sox were both still very much in contention" makes my point for me. Their records also started to suck because those teams are not good. And because the Tigers get to play the Twins over and over and over again. It's not a good division.

    But again, we agree. I think the Tigers have a very good team. I just don't think that winning the craptastic AL Central is necessarily your most compelling evidence of that. Four of six from Texas, yes. "Played better than the Royals," BFD.

  • Josh says:

    Maybe Minnesota can trade Gardenhire for Francona. A lot of Twins fans are sick of Gardy and Sox fans are sick of Francona, so maybe a swap would be perfect for both.

    I'd say I have no idea what happened with Minny's season except we know exactly what happened: no one was healthy, no one out-performed expectations, and a bunch of people under-performed at the same time. Management isn't at fault, really, for the bad health…but the GM & manager do need to take a hit for the bad roster decisions. Right now it's just Bill Smith that's getting whacked, but Gardy deserves a slap for running JJ Hardy off and blaming the players for everything that's got wrong this year. He sure was happy to take a Manager of the Year award last season, despite his consistent inability to win a playoff game…

    The Sox collapse is just weird. How that team started so poorly, surged so mightily, then collapsed so epically all in the same season is a frightening wonder that only happens in baseball.

    I give a lot of credit to the Tiger this season. They just played tough, and Verlander is a show. Watching him mow down your team is like watching a car sliding on the ice: you know exactly what's going to happen and you can't look away.

    That said, he gets the Cy as far as I'm concerned, not the MVP. Bautista is the MVP this year. Of course, if he'd gotten top play the Twins 20 times Bautista would have broken every record in the book, I think…

  • attica says:

    I listened to the various Boston scribes on ESPN this morning talk about whether Francona would get fired or would quit, and all I could think of was: Ah, here we go again. The Boston print media does this Every. Single.Time. Once upon a time, it was Nomar, who was god incarnate, until his play fell off and he had some injuries, and then the gossip was all 'he wants to go' and then the masses screamed for his head, and boom! Traded. Then, Manny. The beloved goofball peeing in the Monster, until he got bored. Once again, the gossip was 'he wants to go', so the crowd felt justified in booing him straight to LA. And now, nobody wants to actually call for the head of the guy who got the franchise 2 championships last decade, so they are all 'he wants to go', so everybody can feel okay demanding his head.

    I'm not a RS fan,and I'm fully schadenfreuding my ass off that they choked, but even I have sympathy for the media environment these guys have to endure.

    If I were Francona, I'd recommend smelling the coffee and bailing now. I'd be shocked if this were something he can ride out, something that won't grow to tsunami-force ere long.

    On the other hand, I knew Boston's signing Carl Crawford was a stupid idea, and I'm delighted to be vindicated.

  • Sarah says:

    Sucks that Francona has to take the fall for what happened in September. Not his fault, but he'll land on his feet in the very near future, if that's what he wants.

    The Rays are killing the Rangers now, which is pretty great to watch. That Matt Moore is going to be something to contend with for AL East teams…

    Looking forward to the CC v. Verlander matchup tonight. It's going to be interesting.

  • FloridaErin says:

    @Sars: "But again, we agree. I think the Tigers have a very good team. I just don't think that winning the craptastic AL Central is necessarily your most compelling evidence of that."

    I will certainly give you that. I mean, our guys completely beat up on the AL Central for the last half of the season, but . . . eh. As much fun as it has been to be a Tigers fan this season, I've had some nagging dread due to the suckage of the AL Central. The series against the Rays was encouraging, but I wish I could have seen them play a few more games against other division leaders LATE in the year to really get a feel for how they would match up.

    As I write this, CC has 5 Ks in 2 innings and Verlander walked two people in the first. And we're in a rain delay. Needless to say, I have concerns.

  • Julie says:

    I don't give two hoots about baseball, but I was curious what all the fuss was about this night. So I read this article, and it moved even me: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/09/29/baseball-night-in-america/?sct=hp_t12_a5&eref=sihp

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    "If you're going to read one thing about baseball, make sure Posnanski wrote it" is a good rule for living.

  • Bo says:

    Wednesday night was amazing, but for me it was ramped up by 21st century technology and my ability to share that last 1/2 hour with a friend who is stationed in Afghanistan. We started FB chatting during the last couple innings of the Phillies game. Watching and rejoicing together for the club and the manager reaching team records while I should have been going to bed and he was eating breakfast in the mess. Then watching the crazy Os celebrate like they'd made the playoffs and then the most perfectly timed game winner ever to complete a great conclusion to the season. Lot's of "Wows" traveling half way around the world (on a delay so it was like I was Anderson Cooper and he was some reporter far away, so I learned to delay my own reactions in order not to spoil moments for him by the time the ultimate moment came). Oh what a night. And thank you computer and telecommunications geeks everywhere for our ability to stay connected so very far apart.

  • Bo says:

    I have a friend who writes baseball and he said Francona doesn't like the team or Lucchino and considers himself very employable so it was fully his choice to leave.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    If I'd had to work with J.D. Drew for X years, I'd be ready to go too.

  • FloridaErin says:

    I've read a lot of pieces about Wednesday, but the Posnanski was hands down the best. Beautiful stuff.

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