So I sit here, slowly drinking a glass of Johnnie Walker Black, thinking about the Tigers’ season. How it ebbed and flowed, from the highest highs to the lowest lows, sometimes within the same 9 innings. It occured to me that baseball is one of the most emotional things there is. Abject failure. Unbelievable, unthinkable joy. Sadness, anger, rejection. These things aren’t unique to the world of baseball, or even sports in general. But it’s different in baseball. The slow pace makes you bleed with every pitch. You scream in agony or joy. You scream in relief. You’re screaming and you’re not even realizing how silly you look or how crazy you sound. That’s playoff baseball. It makes you breathe every single pitch in. You’re absorbed by it, unable to turn away or think of anything else. The drama is unbelievable.
Then it ends. Jose Iglesias (or Miguel Cabrera, or Brandon Inge) strikes out and your season is over. Every single pitch, every moment, every goosebump raising play and every muscle wrenching fist pump is gone. It’s over. It’s done. Everything that you rooted for is over. Miguel Cabrera won’t be hitting another home run for 6 months. You won’t see Justin Verlander battle it out in a Game 7 for all the marbles. Jose Iglesias won’t wow you with yet another outstanding defensive play.
It’s over, and it all seems so empty. The seats at Comerica Park are cold, nary a soul to be seen for 6 months. Fans won’t go laughing through the concourses, forgetting anything and everything but baseball. No more strikeouts, home runs, sunny days and carefree moments.
Shane Victorino made sure of that. His lofty, magical 7th inning grand slam off reliever Jose Veras vaulted the Sox from 2-1 trailers to 5-2 leaders, and it stayed that way. It was an odd game, one that you didn’t think would go well for the Tigers. They load the bases with no one out, and Martinez hits a 2 run single. Boom. 2-1 game. Peralta grounds to 2B. Prince Fielder makes the base-running gaffe of a lifetime, the 2nd out of a double play, and the Red Sox were recharged. An hour later, they were winning 5-2 and despite the 6 outs the Sox still had to get, it was over.
A valiant effort from Scherzer, wasted. Every sharp pain in Cabrera’s side, for nothing. He played through tremendous pain the last 60 days of the season, and it showed. The Tigers just couldn’t get that big hit consistently, and they struggled mightily with the bats. You have to think things would have gone differently had Cabrera been healthy, but this team had their chances to win. Sure, Cabrera’s lack of any speed at all cost them runs. His inability to hit a fastball cost them runs. But, even still, they had chances to win. More than enough chances. The Ortiz grand slam in the 2nd game is an obvious choice. In Game 4, the Tigers had 1st and 3rd with 1 out with Cabrera and Fielder coming up to the plate, and didn’t score a run. They lost game 3, 1-0.
It’s tough to lose a playoff series with the rotation the Tigers have, but lose it they did — stunningly. You have to sit and wonder what happens if Ortiz flies out and the Tigers win Game 2. Do the Red Sox win 4 straight? Possibly, but probably not.
Baseball is emotional. I see it so much. Impassioned fans dying with every pitch, questioning the batter for swinging at balls. Screaming at the pitcher for throwing balls, or hanging a pitch. That’s how we feel tonight, with Comerica Park dark and cold. We feel emotional, thinking about what could have been. We feel emotional thinking about Mike Ilitch grasping that trophy, finally getting what he wants most. Thinking about Leyland sobbing in the clubhouse, surrounded by his guys, who he cares about more than anything.
That’s the beauty of it all. For something to grip you this much, it has to mean something. For something to mean this much, you have to love it. Things you love never die. In our hearts, Comerica Park is warm and sunny, the Tigers up 10-0. The season’s new and full of promise, full of life. The season’s over everywhere but your heart. We love the Tigers because we love baseball, and loving baseball is great. It lets you down, sure, but it’s also your best friend, your loving companion. It may let you down, it may hurt you, but it will never leave you.
I love baseball. That won’t change whether the Tigers ever win another World Series. I’ll love it until the day I die, because I just do. October heartbreaks hurt, but there’s next spring. There’s always next spring.
Only after a long, cold winter.