Friday

2008 MLB Season, Fin


Hello again everybody...

Happy Halloween to you all. I hope you've come up with a creative costume. Me? I'm dressed as a "WCCO Studio Coordinator who's had his vacation day rescinded". It's more about the attitude than the outfit, but I think I pull it off nicely!

Today's my last word on baseball. Well, until the "hot stove league" begins over the winter anyway. But today I look back on the season that was in Major League Baseball. So off we go!

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
- Herm Albright (1876-1944), American author


That might be the best argument for positivity I've ever heard!

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The 2008 Major League Baseball season. Where to begin? I guess at the beginning right?

March: Spring Training. The annual rite where baseball brings the feel of spring, even if the weather conditions disagree. Unfortunately for me, the season got off to an awful start.

Each March for the last several years, I've taken a trip to visit my parents down in Phoenix and take in a handful of Spring Training games. The last two years haven't gone terribly well. Two years ago my dad got violently ill. So much so, it required a trip to the emergency room. An IV-bag of fluids and some antibiotics later, he came through it okay. But obviously it put a damper on the trip.

March 2008 was even worse. I hadn't even left the airport in Minneapolis, when I found out that my 90-year-old Grandmother was gravely ill and had been taken to the hospital. At my parents' insistence I made the trip to Phoenix anyway, but had to return early when she passed away a couple of days later. Losing a member of the family is always traumatic, but I was comforted by the fact that Grandma Cook was as ready to move on to whatever that next phase of existence is as anyone I'd ever known.

So yeah, it was a tough March. But it led to...

April: The regular season begins.

Also at my parents insistence, I made a "make-good" trip to Phoenix for a 4-day weekend in April. This allowed me to attend a couple of Diamondbacks games for the first time in several years.

I saw two games in which the D'backs worked over the Colorado Rockies - 2007's darling team. And those games cemented my decision to adopt Arizona as my "other favorite team" for the 2008 season. I got my Brandon Webb jersey and took the picture you see at the top-right of the blog.

My adoption was obviously helped by the red-hot start the D'backs got off to (20-8) in the month of April. I also felt good about it considering the 13-14 record my original favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, started with. I felt compelled to add another favorite team, because I didn't want to suffer through what I felt would be a rough season for the Twins without something else to sustain me.

May: The newness of the season has worn off. The comforting routine begins.

This was the first time I'd purchased the MLB "Extra Innings" package. That gives you access to nearly every televised MLB game in the country. This was fantastic because it allowed me to watch D'backs games as well as Twins games. Plus, if there was a must-see pitching match-up on a given night, I could tune that in as well.

It turned out to be better in theory than in practice however. While I'm a big fan of my standard work-hours (1pm-9pm, M-F), it does impinge on prime-time TV viewing. And this year I learned it meant that any game on the East Coast was one I either had to DVR or not watch at all. So while I re-learned to love the dulcet tones of Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game, I didn't feel like I got as much out of the investment as I would've liked.

The D'backs went 12-17 in May, while the Twins went 18-15. That was sure to turn around though, right? Right?!

June: Summer arrives and baseball fans bask in the glow of the warm sun. At least those fans whose teams play in a ballpark without a dirty tarp for a roof. (Come on 2010!!!)

June brought my Dad back into town to do some work for the Sheriff's Office. It also allowed us to attend a game between the Twins and the D'backs at the Metrodome. Despite my adoption of Arizona, I remained solidly a Twins fan for the 3-game set, and was rewarded with a Minnesota sweep. (Thanks has to go out to my main-man Logan, who attended the Sunday game and helped finished off the sweep for the Twins, resulting in one of the greatest pictures I've ever seen!

The D'backs went 10-16 in June. The Twins went 14-9. My two favorite teams were headed in opposite directions in a hurry!

July: Mid-summer. The mid-summer classic. Baseball passes the midway point and the contenders start positioning themselves for playoff runs.

The All-Star game was won by the American League once again, meaning that the ALCS winner would have home field advantage in the World Series. I still hate this rule, but it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

But I think the game itself was overshadowed by the one skill competition that still captivates people, the Home Run Derby. There was a run of years when the Slam Dunk competition during the NBA All-Star festivities competed with the Home Run Derby (thank you Michael Jordan). But those years a long past.

This year's Derby saw a mammoth first-round performance by the presumptive favorite for this year's Comeback Player of the Year award - Texas OF Josh Hamilton. Hamilton powered a record 28 home runs out of Yankee Stadium to set a new single-round record. Unfortunately for Josh, only the first and second rounds are cumulative. Everybody goes back to zero for the Finals, and that's where Hamilton ran out of steam and was beaten by Minnesota 1st baseman Justin Morneau.

So I was conflicted. I loved the fact that one of my guys won the contest. But my glee was mitigated by the fact that Morneau's victory would be quickly forgotten amongst the well-deserved hype generated by Hamilton's record-setting night.

The D'backs went 14-11 in July. The Twins went 15-10. Suddenly it was looking like both my teams might make the playoffs! Ahhh, baseball nirvana.

August: The dog days of Summer set in and baseball fans start to wish the playoffs would just get here already!

The non-waiver trade deadline was July 31st, so I started August cringing. The Dodgers had added Manny Ramirez, so the D'backs chances just got a whole lot slimmer. The White Sox had added Ken Griffey, Jr. I didn't think that was as costly to the Twins as the Ramirez addition was to the D'backs. But considering that neither of my teams made a significant addition, I wasn't feeling all that great.

The Twins began an epic road-trip at the end of August to make way for the Republican National Convention. While it was widely proposed that this road-trip would define their season, it really didn't as they went 5-9 on the trip but remained in contention.

The D'backs went 13-15 in August. The Twins went 17-12.

September: The home stretch. A crispness enters the air. Who's in the playoffs and who's out of the playoffs gets decided.

Perhaps the most disappointing month of the season for me. The D'backs went 13-13 and stood pat while the red-hot Manny-Ramirez-led Dodgers passed them by. The Twins stumbled to a 11-14 finish which forced them to play a play-in game versus the Chicago White Sox to determine the AL Central Division winner. A game the White Sox won, sending the Twins home for the off-season.

But there was a shining light that came through in the end. The Tampa Bay Rays had gone from the worst record in 2007, to AL East champions. A truly terrific story that had played out over the course of the entire year. Let's face it. I was just thrilled that the Red Sox (whom I hate) didn't win the division.

October: A month of playoff wonder. Even for those of us who's teams didn't make the post-season, we can still pick a team or two to follow and root for!

For me the playoffs became a case of praying that the Dodgers and the Red Sox (whom I hate) didn't both end up in the World Series. It would be a shame to be forced to avoid the Fall Classic.

Fortunately it didn't turn out that way as the Philadelphia Phillies cruised through the NL playoffs to the World Series. And they were joined by the Rays after a hard-fought battle with the Red Sox (whom I hate) in the ALCS.

Unfortunately, the Fall Classic wasn't so classic. Not only did it end in a Phillies victory after only 5 games, but 2 of the 5 games were marred by weather. Game 3 didn't start til late at night after the rain stopped. And as we're all aware, Game 5 took place over 40+ hours after being suspended midway through the 6th inning.

All in all, it was a heck of a season. Some ups, some downs. Some excitement, some dull stretches. Sounds kind of like life in microcosm doesn't it?

I think that's one of the reasons I like baseball so much. It's like a companion that's there for you 8 months out of the year. Nearly every day for those 8 months you can open a newspaper, or log onto a web site and there's baseball. You can pay rapt attention if you like. Or you can tune out for a while and it'll be there whenever you choose to return.

When asked how to follow a losing team with interest, legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell once said, "It's easy. Just remember that every day you go to a ballpark, you might see something you've never seen before."

That's sort of how I experienced the 2008 baseball season. Writing this blog has forced me to watch and research the game in ways I never have before. And if it was possible, it's increased my love for the game.

I hope you've enjoyed taking the journey with me. And hopefully you'll hang around so we can do it all over again next year!

That's all for this week. Have a safe and spooktacular Halloween! I'll be back on Monday with the Post-Mortem on my college football picks. Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Okay, I give up. What is the Hot Stove League?

    Cathy in Maple Grove

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Hot Stove League is the period in the off-season where free agents are eligible to be signed and a lot of trades get made.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_stove_league

    Dan

    ReplyDelete