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.
Tags: Adam Dunn baseball-pool despair Buster Posey Carl Crawford Carlos Beltran Chase Utley Dan Plesac Evan Longoria Felix Hernandez Francisco Liriano Francisco Rodriguez Fredi Gonzalez Greg Amsinger Hanley Ramirez Harold Reynolds Ian Kennedy Ichiro! Jason Alias Heyward Jeff Wilpon Joey Votto Johan Santana Jose Reyes Lance Berkman Logan Morrison Napoleon Lajoie Ozzie Guillen peen art Roy Oswalt Sandy Alderson Ted Williams Terry Collins Terry Francona there's totally crying in baseball and that's okay Ty Cobb