Okay, I've said before that I don't think I should write too much about sports here. There are already many, many newspapers, networks, radio stations, blogs, and barroom chatter doing a fine job. I recognize that no one needs my contributions.
But please be patient for a moment, because the events of the past few days must be discussed.
I guess I'm still somewhere between shocked and crushed at the embarrassing Yankee flameout. Shocked because this team had seemed different from the other failures of the past few years. They played hard, they were resourceful, and most unexpectedly, seemed to be having fun together. It was hard not to think that this year was going to be special.
It wasn't, though. I mean the Red Sox loss in 2004 was awful. But at least they competed in every game. Even in Game 7 there were rays of hope. This series, though, just died a lackluster death. What was it, 20-something scoreless innings? Okay, you can say that some of the Tigers pitched the games of their lives; that's fine, if you're an ordinary hitting team. But this lineup was supposed to be a latter-day Murderers' Row. You'd expect them to at least get a few hits, even against someone's best effort. Yet somehow it didn't happen.
Right now there's a lot of blame being handed around, and just about everyone deserves some (hooray, at last a true team effort). Everyone has a favorite player, though, and everyone wants to protect their favorite. So I'll do that now for mine.
Mike Mussina. Yes, he should have held the 3-1 lead in Game 2. I can't argue that. But the burden of that loss shouldn't fall too heavily on him. To wit:
- Before they got that lead, a small army had already been left on base (I guess the signs of the dwindling of the super power offense were already showing, though we didn't know it yet). That 3-1 lead should really have been something like a 5-1 lead.
- Giving up 4 runs in seven innings isn't great. It's certainly not the type of dominant pitching performance that you'd like to see in the postseason. However, it's not awful either, especially if the offense is supposed to be the strong suit of the team. And it's not like he blew up in the second inning and left the bullpen to try to salvage the rest of the game.
- Down 4-3 in the seventh should not devastate a good team, especially one with a superstar offense. I mean, this was not the type of team that should wilt at the prospect of being behind by one run. If there's anyone out there who says they saw them fall behind by one run in the seventh and thought, "oh no, how can they possibly ever catch up?" well, I don't believe you.
- Again, 4 runs in seven innings isn't great, but it's not the kiss of death for a team. Should my boy get some of the blame? Absolutely. But look at what the rest of the team did. There were players batting in the .100s and .200s in this series. Compare that to 4 runs in seven innings. Which hurt the team more?
So it's over, and changes will be made. People will come and go. My Favorite Pitcher might even be gone. I don't know what the future holds for this team. And I know most people don't care. I know I care more than I should. I know for every one of me who does stupidly care, there are 80-some people who are gloating over this debacle. Go ahead, enjoy yourselves.
The hard part is the finality of it all, especially everything being gone so suddenly. And every year I say the same thing, when the Yankees exit the playoffs, you know summer is really over, and winter is coming, long, cold, gray, wet and windy, winter. Spring seems so very far away and when it comes I will be older and I will wonder where the time has gone. I will wish for spring and summer and a new season and new hope to come quickly during those hard winter days, but I know I can't wish for them to come too fast because their arrival will just mean more days off my own calendar.
But I'll try not to think of that now. I don't care for nostalgia, I don't like to wallow in the past, even the recent past. However, for today, maybe just one day, I can think back to a time just a few weeks ago when there seemed to be so much hope, and it still felt like summer with signs ahead of a happy October filled with crackling cool mornings and days of bright burnt leaves and blue skies and nights with games that seemed important enough to make everything else weighed down by trouble a little less heavy. Instead it's gone, and goodbye 2006, and goodbye names and faces that were familiar and almost like friends on the TV and the morning papers. It's gone, it's over, and I don't know what lies ahead.