It’s hard to believe someone isn’t scripting this stuff. Tonight, the very last of the season, both wildcard slots were in play in four games. St. Louis blew off .346 Houston early. Boston was up against the worst team in its division, while Atlanta and Tampa Bay were facing the best teams in baseball. Obviously, Boston wins, the Rays and Braves lose.
Oooops; the Braves hang on for 13 innings, remarkable! Still, they lose as one would expect, but the other two games, that determined the AL WC slot, were not only incredible cliffhangers but longshot wins. In each, the winners came from behind, and the games were tied up late, in two-out, two-strike situations. Boston lost when its closer gave up not one but two runs after being one strike away from a win. And who flubs the catch that would have sent the game into extra innings? The expensive guy Boston bought from, yes, Tampa Bay, and who’s been a dud from the moment he put on red socks. I’m sad their season is over, but the outcome is just and fair. The team collapsed a month ago and the collapse was evident not only in their pathetic W-L record for September but just watching their body language: it was a bunch of guys (with two exceptions) who faxed in every baseball execution; slumped shoulders, flaccid swings, no hustle. The exceptions, in my view, are Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, who are a joy to watch every minute of every game, win or lose, dragging their deadweight teammates along or playing with support. All the other Sox should be in the stocks on Boston Common for a week, with lots of free fruit put out to throw at them.
Tampa Bay’s performance has been amazing, and I wish them World Series rings, especially because of this: the Rays’ payroll is a fifth of the Yankees’ and a quarter of Boston’s! And their fans don’t come out: home games are full of empty seats, whole sections where you could chase deer. Baseball is not an “any given team on any given Sunday” sport, and it’s not soccer, where scoring is so rare that it is poorly correlated with performance. With 162 games in a season, lucky streaks and random variation don’t drive outcomes: the central limit theorem applies. We wuzn’t robbed, we didn’t have bad luck, we aren’t seeing a curse reinstated: we pooched the beginning of the season by bad play and the end of the season by dogging it, and we are properly skulking off into the winter with our tails between our legs.