The Best/Worst Day of the Year

Yanks lose heartbreaker meaningless game to Rays
Gary Sanchez ranked among top 20 Sally League prospects

There’s nothing better than pennant race baseball. The Yankees have already wrapped up their playoff spot and division title, and although we still don’t know who they’re going to play in the ALDS, we do know that Game One will start at 8:37pm ET on Friday night in Yankee Stadium. The last week of games has been relatively stress free, but that’s all going to change in two days.

Other teams are not so lucky though. The Yankees have been directly involved in the AL wildcard race over the last week and a half, a race that may or may not come to an end today. The Rays didn’t surge and catch the Red Sox as much as Boston blew their nine-game lead this month, and depending on today’s games, either one of those two teams will win the wildcard today or they’re going to play a Game 163 tomorrow. There is nothing more exciting than that, especially since we get to sit back and enjoy the game with no real rooting interest. Yeah, we all want the Sox to lose, but I can’t imagine many people will get all worked up over the game.

It’s not just the Sox and Rays either. In case you haven’t noticed, the Braves blew an eight-game wildcard lead over in the NL this month, and as of last night they’re tied with the Cardinals for the final playoff spot in the so-called Senior Circuit. Those two clubs are in the exact same situation as Boston and Tampa, someone could win the wildcard outright today, or they will end up playing a Game 163 tomorrow. Two Game 163’s? That would be amazing. There’s absolutely nothing better than playoff baseball, and make no mistake, these four teams are playing postseason games today.

* * *

There’s nothing worse than the final day of the season. The 162 games seem to go by a little quicker with each passing year, and by now memories of early season games have blurred together. Tough losses have been all but forgotten, exciting wins are now little more than afterthoughts. Every team in every season has ups and downs, it’s just the nature of the game, but all those highs and lows are going on hiatus now. They’re gone until the spring.

More than anything else, I’ll miss the routine. The daily routine of work, Yankees, sleep we all seem to live during the summer. Some of you might go to school, but all of us manage to squeeze a meal or two in there somewhere. Those are the three constants though, for six months of the year those are the three things life revolves around. And all of a sudden, the routine is gone. What am I supposed to do with myself from 7pm until I go to bed each night (yay!) during the winter? It’s legit depressing.

We Yankees fans got to experience a  whole lot of  good this year. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera made history. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia surprised everyone. Curtis Granderson made a run at the MVP. Ivan Nova came into his own and David Robertson punched a hole in his ceiling and went even higher. Jesus Montero added some late season excitement. The playoffs are their own kind of monster, this alternate baseball world where the season seems to hinge on every pitch. The regular season is different though. It’s long and monotonous, at times even boring, but there’s a certain comfort in that. Baseball is a way of life in the Axisa household, so today is very bittersweet. Bring on the playoffs, even thought they mean the end of the routine.

Yanks lose heartbreaker meaningless game to Rays
Gary Sanchez ranked among top 20 Sally League prospects
  • Darren

    For a second I flashed back to 2008. Now THAT was a bad feeling.

  • Mike Myers

    You forgot about how amazing AJ was! Uh, wait, what?

    Seriously though I cannot wait for the playoffs. The Evil Empire, Verlander vs. the world, Texas going for its first and the whole overrated sox and underrated Tampa….amazing.

  • DERP

    I really want to go to the Oriole/Sox game tonight to help drown out the Red Sox fans.

  • Tiny Tim

    There’s nothing better than playoff baseball. I really hope they don’t add another wildcard. With the extra wildcard today would be irrelevant as everything would be clinched. My fear is that we have 2 one game playoffs tomorrow and Bud says, “Hey look how exciting this is, we can have this every year!” But once one game playoffs become the norm, they won’t be as exciting. What makes this year’s possible one game playoffs so exciting is the two historic collapses that have occurred over the last month.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    Remember that controversial hr call with the royals about a month or so back where giradi didn’t protest the game and a bunch of people were all worried (including me, but especially Michael Kay) that it could affect the division/wild card. that was funny

  • ThisIsBaseball

    I agree. This is definitely a bitter sweet day. Though we have post-season baseball, I am counting down the days until Opening Day 2012. It can’t get here soon enough.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      agree…the daily happenings in baseball are just so much fun to follow. the lockout has decreased my interest in football, the NBA is useless, I’m not a hockey fan and I don’t follow college sports. So mid Oct to Feb I’m in hibernation like a fat bear.

      • Erica

        Yeah, and the way the NBA is going… we won’t even have that to pretend to be interested in. This previous offseason is why I bought myself a Landry Fields New York Knicks tee-shirt. I felt like I was in some kind of haze… a scary, baseball-less haze.

      • steve s

        The hot stove league is sometimes more intriguing and spell-binding than the regular season especially for Yankee fans. I’d say there are a few weeks after the winter meetings and before sping training that are dull but even then there are lots of baseball related publications that keep my interest going and, of course, RAB does as well. Baseball, more than any other sport, is a year round passion for me.

        • Rich in NJ

          I think the hot stove could become more boring (in a good way) as Cash increasingly relies on the great homegrown talent he has accumulated. That is a large part of the reason I want him to remain as GM.

          • steve s

            True but it’s the linkage of the Yanks to every possible major deal going down (whether they consummate such deal or not) that keeps it interesting. Rumors are mostly bs but it sort of is mind-candy in many ways.

          • MannyGeee

            agreed, however I think beyond when 5 years ago we used to say “The Yankees paid HOW MUCH for that guy?” to saying it about such geniuses like Theo Epstein… Carl Crawford says hello.

            CounterPoint: EVERY time someone signs somewhere, Cashman fcked up, or so say the bridge-jumpers… that gets old.

    • Darren

      I would suggest you try and live a little bit more in the moment. If you’re wishing for Opening Day 2012 and the 2011 isn’t over yet, you’re living life too much for the future. Try and enjoy the now – you’re not supposed to feel this way until after the World Series is over!!

      • ThisIsBaseball

        You must be a “glass-half-full” kind of guy. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to convince myself to see it that way. I try hard though, I promise.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    The Sox media is getting all geared up for tomorrow’s game so they are looking right past the O’s tonight. Hopefully the O’s come to play.

    The “Collapse” just goes away if the sox make the playoffs and I’ve spent too much time and energy on it for it to just blow away like a fart in the wind.

    IF the Sox and Braves both miss the playoffs the MLB should have some type of “Collapse Crown” 3 game series for them. The trophy would be a Golden Turd.

    • MeGustaMontero (JM)

      Yeah, I’ve invested too much into Boston’s failure that I won’t be able to stand it if they make the playoffs. Temporary depression.

    • Eezzy

      Are the Mets invited to this collapse crown party?

      • Bartolo’s Colon

        yes, they will be honored with the lifetime achievement award

        • MannyGeee

          should we call it the Minaya?

          Or should we call it the Jim Kelly Memorial Tourney?

  • ED

    As stated in the post, all the milestones and surprising performances made this a really enjoyable regular season. A couple other highlights that stood out to me are Jeter’s resurgence (who saw that coming? Nobody!) and the awesomeness of not trading Montero or any other prospects at the deadline.

    • Darren

      I beg to differ! I’m not saying I saw it coming but I thought it was a definite possibility. It’s still funny how all the people who buried Jeter in May are eerily silent now. You would think that as ostensible Yankees fans they would be HAPPY that Jeter had an amazing second half. Instead they’re left to sift through their numbers like a bunch of nerds who wet the bed and can;t figure out where the smell is coming from.

      • Sayid J.

        Eerily silent? Bunch of nerds? I love this narrative. You do realize that some of those people saying Jeter was done are the same people who run this blog? If going silent means continuing to churn out several blog posts daily, then yes, they are quite silent.

        I don’t think anyone is afraid to admit they were wrong about Jeter being done. I definitely thought he was done. Who’s hiding from that? Congrats to you though, you thought it was a possibility that he might have a resurgence and deserve all of the points on the internet!

        • Darren

          Thank you! I’d like to redeem those points.
          In all seriousness, I saw a ton of stories about how he was done, almost none that analyzed whether he had a chance to come out of it, and alomst none that analyzed his resurgence. That’s the kind of silence I’m talking about.

          And the vitriol and glee people seemed to take in burying Jeter was baffling, to quote Casey Close.

      • Graig not Craig

        1) You thought it was a definite possibility? Wow. You should have bought a lottery ticket while you were on such a roll.

        2) Do you really think there is large population of “ostensible Yankee fans” on RAB who are upset that Jeter had an amazing second half?

        The truth is Jeter started out cold and ended hot. Yankee fans who write blogs reserve the right to whine when a highly-paid aging player with a new contract starts off slow just as much as they reserve the right to cheer when the same player picks it up later in the season. Why stand on a soapbox and call them bed-wetting nerds with the aid of your 20/20 hindsight?

  • Erica

    Beautiful article. This is exactly how I feel. Although I’m so incredibly excited for the postseason, I just… ugh… can’t we just go back to the beginning of the season so we have 6 more months of baseball? Please?

    • Normando

      Ditto. The months after the Series and before Spring Training seem to take forever, and I feel routine-less. I wish there were Yankee Classics on the radio during the off-season.

      • Erica

        Yes! As much as we all gripe about John Sterling, there’s something comforting in the routine of getting in the car and switching to 880AM.

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          agree…sterling and walman get a lot of flack, but when i hear those voices i know i’m listening to the yanks…so it ain’t all that bad!

          side note…the biggest downside of the playoffs is the late starts/long games. staying up past 11/midnight makes for some rough Oct mornings.

        • Rich in NJ

          Sterling is somewhat tolerable as long as I remain aware that when he starts a HR call, it’s probably just an infield popup.

        • MannyGeee


          and I have a new found respect for Sterling, as he needs to deal with a functioning lemming that is Suzyn Waldman… she is almost insane, i swear.

        • Normando

          I end up stuck at my desk many weeknights, so its radio or nuthin. As a kid, the only way I could follow games was by radio, and it is still my preferred format in many ways.

    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

      324 Game season!

  • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

    Note to the Braves: See what happens when you let go of Melky???

  • patricia

    Before you judge me please read my whole post … I moved to NY to be with my die hard watch every game Yankee Fan Boyfriend. Coming from Chicago I was a Cubs fan. Now I get to experience the joy of victory as I have known humility for a long time. Yankee fandom is to be appreciated. It is an amazing connection … though what I have to say to you is … get a winter hobby!!! Do something either within baseball to expand your super fandom or learn something new. Me, I am aiming towards learning something new … though I do look forward to the spring and possibly heading out to check out spring training. Have a peaceful winter!

    • Monteroisdinero

      Go to ST. I have gone the last 4 years and it is a great experience. Tampa is fun but also plan to see the Yanks in a ST road game. Sarasota (O’s) and Lakeland (Tigers) are great fun. Easy to get close and talk to the players.

  • Drew

    Ironically, despite the talk of a future dual wild card being put off this year, if both leagues end in a tie, for all intensive purposes this will be a dry run at 2 wild cards, 1 game play off.

    • jsbrendog

      touche. i dont like a 3 game playoff though. make it 1 game winner take all.

      to the death.

    • tom

      But the point is this year we didn’t have to artificially set up a Huge Dramatic Playoff Scenario — the season itself presented it to us, and it’s more exciting because of that. If Grandmaster Selig’s new plan were in effect, today would be meaningless, as the four teams involved would both qualify for the play-in game tomorrow regardless. Instead, we have a huge number of possibilities in today’s outcomes (two ties, two long-time leaders holding on, two underdogs grabbing the lead at the end, one of each). I find the variety offered by the latter far more fun, even before we get to tomorrow.

      Baseball history has had a knack for demonstrating the perils (or opportunities) offered by change. In 1993, the last year before the wild card was instituted, the SF Giants saw a large lead wiped out; they lost their division/playoff spot by one game to the Braves. A year later, the whole stretch run would have been meaningless, as both teams would have qualified. I assume Giants’ fans would have been happier with that change, but alot of us lamented we’d never see another thrilling finish among the top two teams like that again.

  • Yank The Frank

    Post Season Yankee games really make you miss the YES crew, thank Mo for the pre & post game YES coverage.

  • Guest

    The “it would ruin races like this years race” argument isn’t that strong to me. The second a wild card was entered, it was a lock that races would be ruined. As it stands, the wild card ruins division races. A second wild card, if implemented as the rumors indicate it will be, will ruin the race for the first wild card BUT improve the division race. (By increasing the incentive to win the division).

    Personally, I would rather have more juice injected into the race for the division winner than the race for the wild card.

    And, yes, the novelty will wear off, but those wild card one game playoffs will still be pretty exciting for years to come. The “one game loser goes home” might not be “fair,” but they have brought excitement to the NFL playoffs, the NCAA tournament, and Game 7s for decades.

    • Guest

      Sorry, reply fail. Meant to be reply to Tiny Tim.

    • Sayid J.

      “but they have brought excitement to the NFL playoffs, the NCAA tournament, and Game 7s for decades.”

      Of all of the arguments to make, I urge proponents of the 1 game playoff to NOT use this one. 1 game playoffs in the NFL are fine because in the NFL, 1 game is 6% of the season. In NCAA basketball, 1 game is 3% of the season. In baseball, 1 game is .6% of the season. The relative unfairness in baseball of a 1 game playoff is monumental. There are many reasons why a 1 game playoff would be good for baseball (increased division importance, more teams in it till the end, etc.) but the fact that 1 game playoffs work for the NCAA and NFL means absolutely nothing for baseball.

  • Sayid J.

    Good piece Mike, the end is always bittersweet. Especially because with the playoffs it can be over in a flash. Although we all hope the Yankees make it to the World Series, the reality is that Tigers could easily take 3 from the Yankees, ending the playoffs before they really get started.

    Here’s to hoping the playoffs are exciting and that the Yankees are a part of it until the last out. It’s been a great season and I don’t want it to end.

  • Kenny Powers mullet

    All right full disclosure I’m a Red Sox fan and yes feel free to pile on about the putrid play of the team I love. The reason I would open myself up to abuse is I have a friend who is a Yankee fan who said this:

    “I will say this makes our 2004 ALCS collapse seem like nothing.”

    How many of you would agree with this statement?

    • Darren

      No one who is being honest.

      The 2004 collapse stands on its own as brutal moment for Yankees fans and an unbelieveable catharsis for Red Sox fans.

      If (and it’s still a big if) the Sox don’t make it to the playoffs this collapse will also stand side by side with 2004 as two of the worst in history.

      You can make good arguments which is worse, but they each are atrocious in their own ways. It’s like the old question, would you rather get your balls slowly crushed in a vice, or eaten by baby wolverines? Neither answer is satisfactory.

      BTW, do Sox fans still laugh at Torre for not bunting on Schilling and for never hitting Ortiz or even pitching him inside?

      (good luck tonight… i mean, not really, but you know, in a civil way).

      • Kenny Powers mullet

        I never understood why Torre didn’t make anyone bunt against Schilling. That to me was an unforgivable blunder. Did he ever explain that? As far as hitting Ortiz–maybe that would have satisfied some blood lust for Yankee fans but I don’t think it would have really helped.

        The only thing that I will ever continue to laugh about is A-Rod karate chopping Arroyo’s arm and then celebrating on second base with a big hand clap like he actually accomplished something.

        Thanks for the good luck with your qualifier. Maybe the Yankees could avoid a triple play with the bases loaded tonight.

        • Darren

          I’m pretty sure the only thing Torre said about not bunting was “that wasn’t the Yankees game and he didn’t want to change their style of play”

          Or something equally ridiculous. That was Torre at his worst – inflexible and wedded to a certain way of doing things.

          As far as hiting Ortiz, it wasn’t about blood lust, he was just so damn comfortable with the inside pitches and we did nothing at all to try and change that.

          I was at Game 6 and 7 and it was obvious from the upperdeck that Arod should have been called out for the slap play. I don’t think it was a bad try, but the umps made a good call. Same thing with the Bellhorn homerun. I could see from 500 feet away that it was a dinger that hit off the fan’s chest. Another good call.

          Sorry about the triple play. I think we’ll win tonight – how do you feel about your chances? It’s astonishing to me that Epstein doesn’t even have one halfway decent arm to call on. I would be infuriated if I was a Sox fan. Among other things.

          • Kenny Powers mullet

            Injuries happen but I think any Red Sox or Yankee fan knows if Buccholz didn’t get hurt we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

            I am however infuriated now and when we signed Lackey for big money. The guy’s internal numbers were in decline for three years in a row and it was obvious he wasn’t even close to being worth ace money. It’s been as bad as the Giant’s Zito signing.

            Yes Dice-K’s has been mostly a complete flop and a colossal overpay but I’m not sure I would blame Epstein for much else other than also overpaying Crawford. It’s not Epstein’s fault that Beckett and Lester are 1-5 over their last 6 starts with a 8.18 era. There are plenty of other players to blame for this but I would start with what were supposedly two of the best starters in the American League going into September.

    • Yank The Frank

      2004 will never seem like nothing. Our 2004 failure is still the most painful sport memory that I have. However, if you do miss the payoffs the title of “worse choke in sports” could now be argued.

    • Thomas

      Both are bad, but different.

      Neither had happened before and probably won’t happen again anytime soon. While 2004 was more heartbreaking (reaching the WS compared to the playoffs), it was more predictable. The 2004 Red Sox team was overall better than the 2004 Yankees team on paper and had the Red Sox won four straight either in a sweep, down 0-1, or down 0-2, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising. However, this Red Sox team is superior than the Rays and shouldn’t have blown this lead.

      I’d say this collapse is worse , but not nearly as heartbreaking and certainly doesn’t make “2004 ALCS collapse seem like nothing.”

      • Kenny Powers mullet

        I posted this on and obviously the response there has been more on the side of they don’t even come close to comparing but thanks for your honest responses.

        • Darren

          Meaning that 2004 was worse? Or that this year is worse? I honestly don’t know which one Boston fans think is worse.

          And I have a feeling Boston is gonna make it in, even after all this. Whether they survive the first round is another story….

          And although I don’t want to see them, you really can’t argue with the drama of another Boston/NY ALCS.

          • Kenny Powers mullet

            Boston fans overwhelmingly think the 2004 ALCS was worse which I thought was obvious.

            • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

              You seem like a reasonable fellow. Thanks for stopping by. And good luck. Not really. But, you know.

              Somewhat more seriously…it’s the difference between the guillotine and death by 1000 paper cuts. Neither is good. Neither makes the other go away. But the fact that The Collapse (assuming you do go on to miss the playoffs) happened second makes the first easier to live with :)

      • tom

        Yeahm it certainly doesn’t negate 2004. But it allows Yankee fans, if taunted about 2004 by a Sox fan, to answer back, Who are you to talk?

    • Chen Meng Wang

      I’m about 7hrs late to the party with this but your friend is absolutely wrong. The 2004 Collapse was probably the most heartbreaking thing I have ever witnessed in sports. While this one that you guys are going to might be more implausible, it’s just to get into the playoffs. In 2004 the Yankees were 27 outs away from the World Series which to me adds huge levels of disappointment that aren’t the same as the Mets collapse a couple years ago or your The Collapse* this year.

  • Cy Pettitte

    MLBTR saying that the Sox may get Bruce Chen for potential game 163.

    how funny is that? if this comes down to a tie breaker the Sox have Chen, Lackey, and Wakefield to choose from with their almost 200mil payroll. the Rays have Moore, Niemann and Davis.

    • Sarah

      Saw that on Twitter. Epic.

      The Yankees should call and offer AJ Burnett. This is a chance to unload his contract!

      • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

        IETC very much, thank you.

  • Eezzy

    My favorite part of this time of the year is the commercials about how legends are made in october, and most of the highlights are of great Yankee moments

  • detroit_yankee

    New Magic Number: 11

    As a Yankees fan living in Detroit, RAB is consistently my only (reliable) link to staying up on recaps, minor leagues, news, etc. Thanks for a terrific job this season, especially with the milestone stories for Jeter and Mo — here’s hoping we can cap it off with a WS victory.

    And then go into withdrawal until the off-season discussions begin.

    That said: I’d really like to see Boston complete le collapse if only to make all those BSPN analysts look silly for their across-the-board pick of Boston to win…well, everything.

    Don’t forget that Detroit and Texas are down to a one-game decision maker as well. A Detroit victory tonight coupled with a Texas loss means NY plays Texas and not Detroit.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Texas means “you know who” gets to play more. It says so in the binder!

  • L

    Very bittersweet day. Yankees baseball is just part of my daily being. Thanks for a wonderful regular season of blogging and keeping your readers minds entertained.

  • Dan

    Well said. The day-in-day-out routine of watching a game, waking up and reading RAB is one of my favorite things to do. The playoffs bring a whole world of stress and uncertainty that the regular season, over 6 months, does not. I will miss Tuesday night My9 Rainouts and daily recaps. But I will keep coming back for playoff previews, hot stove updates, and spring training countdowns.
    Thanks for a great season guys

  • JimIsBored (Jim S)

    No idea how I’m going to spend the first hour of my workday without the recap and DOTF. Makes waking up on Mondays much more tolerable.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      Maybe you could, you know, work? Pretty sure your boss would appreciate it ;)

      • Jesse

        There’s a 22% chance he’d really do that, so don’t count on it.

  • thenamestsam

    This really captures how I feel about the end of the regular season. The playoffs are so different that it’s almost like following a different sport. As a baseball fan it’s much easier to keep perspective (although some around here make it look hard) than in other sports. You almost always play again the very next day and each game means very little in the grand scope of a season, let alone a life of fan-dom. In the playoffs, all that goes out the window, and the increase in the level of stress makes the oddities of baseball (the incredible randomness of each and every game) which normally help define its pleasant rhythms into the the most brutal of frustrations. Because of that, I generally find that I enjoy playoff baseball less than the regular season. Am I the only one?

  • Monteroisdinero

    I watched the Chicago Cubs “Bartman” game on ESPN 30 for 30 last night and I would like all Yankee fans sitting along the field to keep their hands “in” when our opponents are batting.

    What a horrible experience for that poor guy.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      indeed…the cubs imploded in that game and that was just a one play of many that didn’t go their way

      the error by the SS was horrible

  • Scully

    Last day of the regular season and it’s almost award time… how about how both the NL MVP and CY Young winner might very well come from the LA Dodgers, a (potentially overachieving) 3rd place team.

    • Darren

      Donnie Baseball!

    • Monteroisdinero

      If you have the best pitcher and the best player and you finish 3rd in your division doesn’t that make you an underacheiving team?

      • Scully

        Potentially… but if most of the rest of the team isn’t any good…

  • Adam Parker

    Time to reset the Magic Number counter to 11.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    the only post season award I want is the world series trophy….so Costanza can drag it around the parking lot

  • Jesse

    This is why baseball is my favorite sport. During the season there are games practically everyday, and although they may not mean a whole lot since there’s 162 of them, but they all matter. Teams like the Rays, Red Sox, Braves, and Cardinals need every last win they can get.