11th and Washington

11th and Washington: October 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sox appeal

There it is. 12:06 a.m. on the East Coast and Jonathan Papelbon has just struck out Seth Smith to end the 2007 World Series and the baseball season. As I have every year for as long as I can remember, I made sure I stayed up to watch the final out, to see the last pitch of the season, to watch the celebration and to wrap my head around "Boston Red Sox, World Series champions," or whoever the team has been.

Man, the Rockies gave them a ride these last two nights, cutting both games close before Boston pulled away and put it away.

I love how Jason Varitek already has the championship hat on during the on-field interview. I love how Jamey Carroll gave that ball a ride to the wall in left field and how his brother, Wes, whom I covered in Lakewood in 2002 and must've had a moment of unbelievable excitement. I love how it was Jon Lester who started this game only a year after chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's disease. I love how wonderfully enthralling and engaging Roger Angell's season wrapups are and how we'll get to read another one in a week or two.

I love how Bud Selig still looks like a car salesman even as he's presenting a Tiffany trophy to the Red Sox ownership. I love how John Henry can sound so genuine in recognizing the Rockies and their 21-out-of-22 stretch. I love how Jeannie Zelasko seems to be wearing M.C. Hammer's pants.

I love how Alex Rodriguez -- or Scott Boras, or both -- planned his opt-out announcement for tonight, to steal some thunder, to start the process right away, to try to make it all about him. I love how he didn't show up in Denver to accept his Hank Aaron Award alongside the NL winner, Prince Fielder. I love how Mike Lowell is the Series MVP and is a free agent and that the Red Sox will probably re-sign him rather than spend the money for A-Rod. I love how the Rangers are off the hook for their remaining $21 million on A-Rod's contract. I love how the Yankees say they won't negotiate with him now that he's opted out and how this can only end one of two ways: 1) He leaves, or 2) they lied.

I love how they run the credits along with highlights of the Series all set to music and how that song was Van Morrison's "Golden Autumn Day" in 2004. I love how that song was Bruce Springsteen's "Radio Nowhere" tonight, followed by U2's "Walk On" for the extra minute.

I love how Jacoby Ellsbury stole us a taco.

I love how there's only one October, meaning we won't have to see Dane Cook yelling at us anymore.

And I love how everything starts anew again in four months when full squads report to spring training.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Time to choose a bandwagon

OK, it's been two weeks since the season ended, since the Mets' collapse was complete. Time heals all wounds, and while they may not yet be healed, they are at least sufficiently scabbed over so as not to cause wincing upon being touched.

Throughout those 17 days of September, we kept reminding ourselves that the Cardinals and Tigers struggled last September, yet they ended up in the World Series. "We just have to get there," we thought.

Not so easy.

The Mets choked; they simply gave up and gave away the NL East. Instead of setting up their postseason rotation during the final week of the season against the Marlins and Nationals, they were still trying to get into the postseason. The never got there.

It wouldn't have mattered.

Is there a more amazing story in sports right now than the Colorado Rockies? This is the autumn of upstarts, where South Florida is No. 2 in the AP and BCS rankings, where Kansas is among the final handful of undefeated teams, where Arizona State is the Pac-10 team that finds itself in the "controlling its own destiny" position for a BCS berth. Yet the Rockies may be the most amazing story of all.

After a last-place finish in 2006, the Rockies weren't expected to contend until next year at the earliest, but they tore through September, compiling a 10-game winning streak and winning 13 of their last 14 to force a tie with the Padres for the NL Wild Card. Getting the one-game playoff at home, Colorado came back to defeat Trevor Hoffman in extra innings -- whether or not Matt Holliday touched the plate didn't matter when the umpire signaled that he was safe -- and entered the NLDS on a roll.

That train continued to steamroll the Phillies and the Diamondbacks -- the team with the NL's best record, and one that finished a mere game (after the Rockies' extra win in their playoff with the Padres) ahead of Colorado -- in seven straight.

Now Denver will host its first World Series, on the last weekend of October. If the NL had home-field advantage in a Series that goes seven games, the Rockies would've been playing at Coors Field in November. Frankly, I'm pulling for snow -- or maybe just a blizzard from the Rockies on an off-day.

Should the Indians win one more game against the Red Sox, they'll enter the Fall Classic as the likely favorite, with a chance to win their first championship since 1948. You can expect to see Bob Feller at Jacobs Field for Game 1 on Oct. 24. But no matter the matchup, I can find reasons to pull for any of these teams. Can Colorado keep up its insane pace? Will the Tribe break its title drought? Can the Red Sox pull of yet another ALCS comeback and then win their second title in three years after going 0-for-86?

In a you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it year like this one, it's fitting that those are the options we're left with.

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