Yes, I'm late. But this time, with sort of good reason. I was all ready to put aside some time to write a eulogy for the Giants 2011 season, but then they (and the Braves and DBacks) didn't quite cooperate. So I can't quite do that.
Instead, I'll just think about what it's been like for Giants fans -- and Rays fans, and Angels fans, and Cardinals fans -- this September. Odds are, none of the chasers are going to catch anyone. I haven't even bothered checking Clay Davenport's playoffs odds for a while; it just seems too improbable. And yet, it's nice to sort of play meaningful games in September, even if you can't really believe that it's at all realistic to hope for a happy ending. Or at least you keep trying to tell yourself that it's not realistic, and you should absolutely not use up any of your scarce supply of hope. And you know that's true, but you also know all about the 1964 Cardinals and the 1987 Tigers and, certainly, the 1951 Giants, and all the others.
See, the real secret of baseball, the thing that Bud Selig just doesn't seem to understand, is that pennant races work really, really well. There's nothing like it in the other sports. The baseball calendar just works incredibly well: the spring start, with all the hopes and silliness of what two or even six weeks means, and then the long summer months where the teams and players sort themselves out, and some seasons fall to injuries or aging or whatever, and it just goes on forever...and then suddenly in September five games out might as well be fifty, except it's really not because if and if and if and if.
The day-to-dayness of it all means so many different things, too. In April and May (and March), it's all about getting used to the team, and the rest of the division, and the rest of the league and the other league (and, for many of us, our new roto team, which has its own rhythms to learn). In July and August, the games all bleed together, sometimes. And then in September, if it's one of those years, it's just always there, every day, every game just killing you. Kruk & Kuip were right, but not just for this team. It's always torture.
Oh, the postseason is great too, in its own way, but baseball, to me, the real essence of baseball, is pennant races. It's the one thing that baseball has that the other sports don't have. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why MLB doesn't promote the hell out of September baseball, and revise the sport to make sure that it works as well as it can.