I stayed up last night watching my Braves as I have a hundred times before. I was tense, but perhaps not as tense as I may have been in years past, or in different circumstances. See, when a team like the Braves goes into a win-or-go-home game like last nights ended up being, but they have zero momentum, the game loses it's edge. Given the way they have played in the last month, I had little confidence that even should the Braves advance past the best team in baseball with a fluke win, that they'd have anything left in the tank to battle St. Louis. Once the game went extra innings, I began to think maybe it would just be better to end the suffering now rather than prolong the struggle of September. My wish was granted. The game shaped up to be so emblematic of the last part of this year's Braves season: little offense with runners in scoring position, a key error here, too many walks there, a blown save, a squib hit by the other team and suddenly the season was over.
I was sad for Atlanta, especially after such a close, competitive game. My small glimmers of hope that they could get back into an upswing just in time just didn't materialize. The old guys looked old (that's you, Chipper), the young guys looked tired and nervous (that's you Venters and Kimbrell). They just had nothing left in the emotional or physical tank, so they stumbled clumsily out of the playoffs. Meanwhile the team with the hot hand did their job with an exclamation point - big run total, complete game shutout from Carpenter.
At the close of the Braves game, I quickly turned to the other baseball, needing distraction. And thank God I did. I got to witness the other parts of what ESPN's Tim Kurkjian called one of the greatest nights of baseball he can remember. The Rays stormed back, the BoSox looked sure to close it out. So eerily similar though has their track with the Braves been this September, one had to wonder if their 3-2 lead...like Atlanta's...wasn't quite as secure as Papelbon's steely gaze. And indeed, it was not. And perhaps their 9th inning debacle was worse than the Braves' for they had 2 outs, and gave up both the tying, and winning run. Not to mention that they gave them up to a team that, unlike the Phillies, haven't seen the playoffs in years.
I posted on Facebook when the O's tied the game.
At the time, I referred only to surrendering the tying run, and to their dismal September. I had no idea that about 3 minutes later the O's would score the winner, then a few minutes after that, the Ray's would score their winner. I had no idea the true misery that Boston would suffer within minutes. But to be honest, as a sad Braves fan, it helped lift my spirits. Like the same way that people with sad, hurt-filled lives watch sad, hurt-filled reality television because it makes their lot seem not quite so crazy. Or how I feel when I watch Hoarders. "Oh, well my house isn't THAT messy."
So, thank you Boston, for giving Braves fans the space to say, "Oh, well at least our team isn't THAT shameful."
Sure, my Bravos lost a big playoff lead, but with half the payroll of the Sox, with 2 starting pitchers injured for much of the season, other solid players nagged by injury, a young team and a new manager. I will not write them off, just like I haven't all the previous years of enduring dissapointing post-season losses, or like I never did after the 80's Braves were laughable in their awfulness. I still watched and cheered. And I will still look forward to those four beautiful words that signal the advent of Spring Training. "Pitchers and catchers report." It's not so very far away.
In the meantime, Go Phils (that's for Jeff) and Go Tigers (that's for my Michigan family...and all of Detroit really).