“(Baseball) breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
-A. Bartlett Giamatti
Bart Giamatti was the shortest tenured commissioner in the history of the game, and perhaps the last real one. Because while his predecessors- Selig and Manfred- have been prolific at pimping and gimmickry, Giamatti used a deep and abiding love for the game as his compass. He would’ve been in all four corners of the country this October, taking it all in and penning more of that good thing.
Expanding the postseason was a gonna happen dynamic that has prevailed upon our need for love and romance on the diamond. And this October fortnight has been swoon worthy: In the span of a week’s time, the MLB saw not one, not two but three one-hundred win juggernauts go by the wayside: You could almost understand the 101 win Mets going belly up since it’s become their fall standard ever since Mike Piazza left the building. But then the Braves got outfeisted (my word) by the Phillies in an accidental prize fight that went Balboa in a hurry.
Surely the Dodgers would hold strong against the National League’s barbarians best efforts to tear down the gates. Hell, not even Poe could kill the corporate beast from Chavez Ravine. And the Padres really didn’t feel like the team that was gonna do the slaying, in spite of their drinking game deadline deals for the two Joshes, Bell and Hader, along with the sweet swinging Juan Soto. And did I mention the Dodgers went 14-5 against their neighbors to the south during the regular season? As Sam Rothstein woulda said, There’s nuttin to see heah.
Umm . . . . Sam?
Padres 5- Dodgers 3 FINAL
I woke up to that because I have the Padres in my notifications, like a side thing. My main men still reside in the Bronx, and they still have life thanks to Gerrit Cole’s balls to the wall seven inning samurai special in Cleveland that sends the divisional series to the fifteenth round tonight. Baseball royalty was my family seal, having been born in the Bronx and raised by a woman who used to talk shop with the likes of Mantle and Berra and Houk. But let’s face it, for the vast majority of baseball citizenry, rooting for the Yankees is akin to hoping Brad Pitt gets laid. It’s like being cool with Bill Gates winning Powerball. And I completely understand.
The Astros are baseball’s version of the smartest kid in class who decides to cheat on his SAT’s. It’s a damn shame their sign stealing went all fetishy because they have been Scarlett Lettered ever since. Nobody outside of Houston is going to love an October that ends with these guys on top and you know how I know this? Because most baseball Americans would gladly root for the Yankees to take them out.
That’s just sad.
It’s probably why I have such an affinity for the NLCS pairing. San Diego bills itself as “America’s Finest City” while Philadelphia . . . does not. And I think it’s adorable how both fan bases have a bit of an inferiority complex even if they would never admit as much. And it doesn’t hurt one Manny Mota of an iota that neither of these clubs was supposed to be here and yet, here they are.
That’s baseball theater at high tide right there. While most sports have to be broken down to their simplest elements, baseball is already there. It’s a game where the pitcher tells the ball what to do and the batter tries to talk that ball into doing something else entirely. It’s a game of hunches and hot streaks and quirks and yes, magic. That too.
I mean, if Bob Stanley or Calvin Schiraldi could’ve gotten any-fucking-body out on a crisp October night in Queens, Sawx fans wouldn’t have had to wait another eighteen years before the curse of the Bambino was lifted across town in the Bronx. And if Joe Carter’s wrists would’ve been a tick slower, the Phillies get to a game seven with Schilling in Toronto and I really would’ve loved their chances in that one. And if Johnny Damon doesn’t take third against the Phillies in 2009, maybe the Yankees World Series drought would be (Yikes!) twenty-two years instead of thirteen.
I watched the highlights of that Padres clincher against the Dodgers a couple times; once for the game highlights and once just to take in that magnificent engine of a crowd in full throttle. That sea of misbegotten browns and yellows that spun its mad rebellion as their princes slayed kings. And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear them questioning all the answers.
Why not us?