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2005-10-02 22:28
by Mike Carminati
I feel disappointed, but I don't remember just what I expected.
—Mason Cooley

Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.
—Jane Austen

I trekked down to Washington with a couple of friends to take in the Nationals' inaugural season finale. Just by happenstance the game we picked was against my Phils, and I remember saying something half-jokingly when we got the tickets 3-4 weeks ago that maybe the game will have some postseason significance.

Well, the game had a playoff feel to it from the word go albeit a tad bit one-sided. We pulled off the highway—I295 to be precise—and looming right in front of us was RFK a few miles down East Capitol Street. The stadium was in a nearly barren residential neighborhood that I found very odd. We arrived about an hour before game time so after parking we checked out the street vendors on Capitol and then the stadium itself, which had a stately, monolithic, enclosed feel.

It seemed to be a missing link between the cookie cutter stadiums of my youth and the old time stadiums of yester-yester year. I was reminded of the old Comiskey Park with the steel construction and precipitously rising seating. We were in the rightfield section sheltered by the upper deck. We could see the undulating roof to the upper deck which my friend Mike explained allows the fans on the third base side of home to view the Capitol by looking over the depressed roof on the first base side. Odd.

Anyway, I seemed to find nearly as many Phillie (and Eagle) paraphernalia as National (and regrettably, Redskin). There Astros and Red Sox "statements" though they were largely lost on me given the circumstances (who exactly were they rooting for?).

As the game progressed, the fans began to whenever the out-of-town scoreboard showed that the Astros had surged past the Cubs. Now, I can understand why the fans of a team would relish the role of the spoiler, but I cannot understand how someone can cheer the score of game which has no bearing on their team. The Phils were beating the Nats, and their fans were partaking of sour grapes.

I thought that they might be more interested in the score of the Marlins-Braves game, which was won by Florida 7-6 in extra innings. The Nationals trailed the Marlins by one game at the start of the day. At the end of the day, and the season, the Nationals found themselves in last place. The Florida game at least had some direct bearing on Washington's fate.

On the field, the Nats fans had little to cheer aside from a Ryan Church three-run homer in the sixth. Aside from that and the vicissitudes of the Astros-Cubs game, the fans got most excited by perambulations of their mascot Screech the Eagle (though "owl" would have been more apropos), the random television camera that came their way, and a brief but laughably inappropriately timed appearance by close Chad Cordero. Cordero came in in the top of the ninth amid thunderous applause with the Phils ahead 7-3, the bases loaded, and two out, hardly a save situation. Cordero faced two men, hit one, and gave up an infield single to the other. He left with the bases still loaded, two men still out, and his team trailing 9-3, the eventual score but was given almost as big a hand as he received when he entered the game. And I thought it was odd when Met fans cheered for every fly ball that became a homer only in their minds.

Watching the odd-of-town scores, we saw the Indians again get overmatched against Chicago, obviating the result of the Yankee-Red Sox game. I watched as Jimmy Rollins extended his hitting streak to 36 games, and the Phils pummeled seven different National pitchers (including four in the ninth). As we left the stadium, the PA announcer informed us that Astros had won and the Phils were out of the playoffs. Thanks DC!

Sure, I was disappointed, but I found solace in the fact that the Phils did play their best when their backs were against the wall. The parallel between how the Phils and the Indians played in the final day of the season was encouraging.

However, I had to remind myself that the Indians are a young team that should continue to improve next year. The Phils head into offseason we plenty of question marks and even more misspent payroll and they are piloted by a troubling assortment of misfits from their manager through the GM on through the front office.

But at least they did not lose six of their last seven ballgames against last-place teams and a team that already had nothing to prove as the Indians did. They did end up being part of one of the worst stretch run collapses in history, their own.

Even so, the Indians and Phils are within the top twenty teams to miss the playoffs since the start of new playoff system. Actually, aside from the 1999 Reds, who lost a one-game playoff to the Mets for the wild card, the Indians have the best record of any team that missed the playoffs:

1999Cincinnati Reds9667.589
2005Cleveland Indians9369.574
2003Seattle Mariners9369.574
2002Boston Red Sox9369.574
2002Seattle Mariners9369.574
2002Los Angeles Dodgers9270.568
2004Oakland Athletics9171.562
2004San Francisco Giants9171.562
2001San Francisco Giants9072.556
2000Cleveland Indians9072.556
2004Chicago Cubs8973.549
2004Texas Rangers8973.549
1998San Francisco Giants8974.546
2005Philadelphia Phillies8874.543
2001Chicago Cubs8874.543
1998New York Mets8874.543
1998Toronto Blue Jays8874.543
1997Los Angeles Dodgers8874.543
1997New York Mets8874.543
1996Montreal Expos8874.543

By the way, of all the teams to end the season at 1-6 or worse in their last seven games, only eight made the playoffs: 2000 Yankees (World Series champs), 1935 Tigers (WS champs), 1919 White Sox, 1976 Royals, 1913 A's (WS Champs), 1998 Indians, 1903 Pirates, and 1988 Red Sox.

So after nearly a season in which parity was trumped out, we are left with six of the eight teams from last season again making the playoffs. The two new ones are a team barely over .500 (the Padres) and one that nearly suffered one of the worst collapses in baseball history (the White Sox). In the NL, we have the Braves and Houston facing off and the Cards and the NL West champ going at it, the same as last year.

The two teams that made September interesting, the Phils and Indians, are gone. But, hey, the eight teams in the postseason seem as evenly matched, especially in the AL, as possible. And I just found out that I get the postseason games on MLB.TV for free with my package. It would have been nice if I could have skipped out of work early for a 4PM playoff tomorrow, but at this point I'm not complaining.

2005-10-03 06:24:02
1.   Murray
Do you think the Nationals need a new ballpark, or is RFK suitable for their purposes?

I was sorry to see the Phillies wiped out of the playoffs yesterday. I think they would have given the Cardinals a hard time in the first round.

2005-10-03 09:10:35
2.   Ken Arneson
Hey, man, give me some love. The 2005 A's should be on that list, right next to your Phils.

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