The Beauty Of Baseball Shines Through On Season's Last Day
Toronto Fans In The Rogers Centre Bade A Fond Adieu To A Veteran Slugger
Emotion And Intensity Evident Even Without Playoff Implications
Since all of the participants in the playoffs had already been decided, Major League Baseball's special schedule for the last day of the season seemed kind of pointless. The only question yet to be answered, which team would win the National League Central and which would be the Wild Card, became apparent within the first thirty minutes of all fifteen of the first pitches.
All fifteen games started at three o'clock Eastern time, a policy implemented several years ago to keep West Coast teams from learning of their potential playoff rivals's dates even before the first pitch of their own games. Yesterday's game 162s mattered very little, especially after St. Louis jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the Chicago Cubs.
That easy victory made the Cardinals the champs of the N.L. Central, rendering meaningless the Milwaukee game in Colorado. Whether they won or lost to the Rockies, the Brewers would be playing in the Wild Card game.
Nevertheless, that game served as a great example of why baseball is still the biggest sports treasure we have. Milwaukee, having already learned of its playoff fate, still fought for a victory.
After leading at one point three to nothing, the Brewers saw the Rockies piece by piece get a trio of runs. The supposedly meaningless matchup was still tied after nine innings, leading to four extra frames.
No one could have guessed that these guys were working overtime into their vacation without any additional pay, as they continued to make great catches and pitches as if it were game seven of the World Series. Both managers implemented strategic pitching changes, and Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell even challenged for a review on a play at second in the tenth inning.
Colorado eventually proved victorious, but the real winners in that last day were baseball fans. Not only was the aforementioned contest a treat to watch, but so was nearly every other game 162 from yesterady.
Thanks to my Extra Innings TV package and my DVR, I have been able to watch fourteen of the fifteen games. (For some reason the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers game was unavailable on my cable service).
Among the diamond delights was another extra inning game, which saw the New York Mets best the playoff bound Atlanta Braves 7-6 in eleven frames.
Emotion rather than intensity ruled the day in some of the other highlights of 162, including two tributes in Kansas City. Retiring manager Ned Yost received a warm send off, while All-Star Whit Merrifield was greeted with a standing ovation for becoming the first Royals player to lead the league in hits in over three decades.
In that same game there was a delightful opportunity to see the opposition, the playoff bound Twins, do something noteworthy as well. Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli turned his reins over to beloved infielder Ehire Adrianza who, in spite of making several pitching changes and strategic substitutions, saw the Royals break a four all tie with a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Like Yost in in Kansas City, retiring manager Bruce Bochy was honored in San Francisco. The highlight of the festivities was the appearance of numerous players who helped Bochy win three World Series Championships, including former Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, fans in Pittsburgh were honoring a man who is retiring after five decades with the Pirates. Steve Blass, who pitched for nearly two decades for the club, announced his last game after spending twice that long in the broadcast booth.
NoR were the emotional moments limited to just the United States, as we viewers saw during the Rays and Blue Jays game. Folks in Toronto's Rogers Centre gave a standing ovation in recognition of first baseman Justin Smoak, when he lined a double in what was in all likelihood his last at bat as a Blue Jay.
The last day of the regular season, whether or not it carried playoff implications, was quite special. Unfortunately, it carried with it the depressing thought that we have to endure a long winter before the pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in 2020.