Although I missed the first pitch, I tuned in to the Red Sox game in the early innings last night. I wasn’t about to miss this must see sports TV. Maybe the most important thing I saw when I tuned in was the score to another game altogether. The Yankees, behind a Teixeira grand slam, had taken a 7 – 0 lead. At the time, the Red Sox were winning 3 – 2. It looked like there would be no one-game playoff.
I was bummed. As I alluded to yesterday, I wanted the most drama possible. It seemed as if September 28th, and the night of the 162nd games of the season, would not cooperate.
Then something happened. The rain began to fall at Camden Yards in the middle of the seventh inning. It was coming down hard, too. It caused what would end up being a rain delay of 1 hour, 26 minutes.
I couldn’t help but think that things are really going the Red Sox way now. They were in the middle of a pitching change at the time. This meant they would not lose a pitcher due to the delay if play did resume.
In the midst of that delay I decided to tweet this.
It seemed like the Red Sox would hang on by the skin of their teeth. I mean, one of the ways they got that lead was on a run-scoring balk play. You don’t see that very often. The baseball gods were smiling down, it seemed.
After a long September in Boston, I thought things were finally, once again, going the way of the Red Sox.
Shortly after coming to that conclusion, the Rays ended up getting some life in Tampa. In fact, those last ounces of fight would become a 6-run 8th inning and 1-run 9th inning. Those 7 runs would bring the Rays to extra innings against the Yankees.
While the Rays and Yankees played out the 12th inning in Tampa, Boston began to unfold in their own 9th inning in Baltimore.
I believe this screen-cap illustrates the final moments.
It was about three minutes after Boston completed their ninth-inning collapse in Baltimore when an Evan Longoria’s homer gave Tampa a comeback win shortly after midnight.
As things begin to settle in, you start to hear the behind the scenes stories. For example; Aaron Boone visited the Red Sox dugout prior to the game on Wednesday evening. The same Boone that ended the Red Sox 2003 playoff run.
Wrap your mind around that.
I’m only a few days removed from seeing the Moneyball film. Last night, although not head-to-head, a $40M payroll bested a $161M payroll. The Rays average salary is $1.6M. The Red Sox is $6.0M. The medium is an even more drastic illustration of the picture at hand. While the Rays have a median salary of $900k, the Red Sox median comes to $5.5M.
My mind drifting back to “moneyball” goes well beyond payroll inequalities. It was like watching a movie last night. The events of September 28th were nothing short of Hollywood-quality.
This comes only a day after ESPN debuted it’s 30 For 30 film on scapegoats in baseball titled Catching Hell. While Steve Bartman was blamed for the Cubs 2003 NLCS loss to the Marlins, he wasn’t nearly the only factor that cost Chicago the pennant. The same goes for Bill Buckner in 1986. However, in both instances, those two people were singled-out. They become the respective scapegoats for those entire cities.
The 2011 Red Sox will undoubtedly have scapegoats as well. That’s what fans do in baseball. And it’s fun. As pessimistic as it may sound, that is truly the beauty in this game. It’s something that is hard to get with the other major American sports. That innocent passion is something that was lost in Boston in the fall of 2004.
Although painful for Boston, September 28th will be a night that sports fans all across the country will never forget. Even the “best team ever” wasn’t enough this season. This was the season for the Red Sox. Now, ever so abruptly, the season is over. That’s baseball.
I’d like to welcome Boston back to the “there’s always next year” club. Initiation fee? $161,762,475.