With the Yankees’ pounding of the Rays, the deafening silence of closure has set in. The Tigers’ season is officially over.
I know I’m supposed to be glad that the team fought so hard with injury-riddled lineups, patchwork pitching, and many more Toledo Mudhens than were ever supposed to see the bigs this year. I know how I’m supposed to feel as the fan who sat through 12 straight losing seasons and 4 fouled up manager hirings, and some of the worst baseball trades of the 90s. I know how I’m supposed to feel since I sat glued to my screen in Knoxville, TN in September 2003 praying to God, Buddha, Kevin Costner, and Roy Hobbs that we not break that goddamn loss record.
I know that I’m supposed to be proud of Placido’s ridiculous fielding streak and Magglio’s MVP worthy season, of Pudge’s continued dominance behind the plate and clubhouse leadership well into his late 30’s. Of The Mayor’s continued smiles through the close losses and blown saves handled with a general upbeat likeable demeanor. Of Sheff’s playing through pain for the last 6 weeks just to give the guys that extra boost and inherent protection for Maggs and Carlos. Of Jimmy Leyland’s admirable leadership and assuring big-picture philosophy. Of Verlander’s 18 wins and filthy no-hitter. Of Bonderman’s tougher-than-you attitude that fires everyone up. Of Inge’s hustle. His goddamn everyday hustle.
But what I think of is Jimmy jumping into the sky like a middleschooler after an improbable two-out 6 run comeback win on a Timo Perez (yeah who?) game-ending double. I think of sitting in the left-field stands of last years ALCS Game 4 and watching Maggs’ walk-em-off ball land right in front of me to get us to the Series. THE SERIES DAMMIT. I think of all the positive “its still not out of reach guys, just stay clutch” karmic thoughts I shot them against the Cards.
I think of Joel Zumaya sprinting in from the bullpen to protect his boys in a brawl. I think of Kenny Rogers pouring Champagne on that police officer’s head after the Yankees ALDS series win. I think of him leaning over to ask the cop if it was okay first! I think of the cop saying, sure buddy, go ahead, I’m on this team like you’re on this team, like all those crazy cheering idiots in 40 degrees are. I think of these things simultaneously happy I got to experience them and left longing thinking it was some kind of cruel joke.
I think of what should have been. What they’d earned last year. What we’d earned checking box scores as the lead diminished. What I’d earned watching 134 games this year and attending one fantastic pitching duel. What I’d earned in those 18 years of hope followed by suffering followed by a there’s-always-next-year. What I’d earned for believing that our “next year” is here. Now. Here. Finally. I think of what we’ve all earned supporting a group of fine players, who compete like gentlemen, lose with class, and win with dignity.
I wanted it for them. I wanted it for me. Our time was now. It was supposed to work out differently.
Maybe next year–“as the time of the singing of birds comes” as Ernie used to say each spring–maybe then I’ll feel better. Maybe the hurt will wear off. Maybe. But I hope not. I hope not for a long while. At the end of the day, it’s worth it to me to feel this way.
I earned it. This is my team.
Now I’ll go borrow a Cubs hat, maybe make a shirt, and cheer with the same passion that one of Detroit’s originals, Craig Monroe, can go bring one home for us all.
No… Craig, bring it home for me. For that little bit of goodness I can feel for you as the lone 2007 Tiger World Champion. I need to smile for you. I want that one good baseball moment this year. I deserve it.