The Texas Rangers were perfectly poised to win their first World Series title: They were the better team, they were the more likable team and their fans deserved it more. Everything lined up. This being reality instead of Hollywood though, they lost, and in heartbreaking fashion, no less.
By now we all know that if Nelson Cruz had played just a few steps back, the Rangers would've won the title yesterday. The Cardinals, as luck would have it, got the perfect location on David Freese's drive, and mounted a comeback for the ages. The game made for good drama, but the end result was something baseball could've done without. The last day of the regular season was a thrilling affair, the top two teams (who'd recently won titles) were upset in the first round, the World Series saw some close, exciting games, and what was it all for? A team winning its 11th World Series title. It's hard to get more anti-climactic than that.
I must say, the last three odd-numbered years have not been good. This postseason joins the ranks of 2007 in my book: enough hope dangled to make the crushing conclusion sting with especial poignancy. 2009 was also pretty bad, but the playoff picture itself offered few appealing options, so it was more a case of "little to cheer for in the first place."
For the sixth year in a row, the team I was rooting for in the World Series has lost. I didn't have a huge problem with the Phillies or Giants winning, but I preferred their opponents in those particular years. I guess this is the price I must pay for finally seeing my White Sox win it: six straight years of frustration (and counting). I still remember sitting in my dorm room gazing at that small black-and-white TV when Juan Uribe threw out Orlando Palmeiro by half a step. Had I only known that never again in my 20's would I enjoy a final out like that one...well, perhaps it's for the best that I didn't. The odds say that I should enjoy a similar elation again before my 30's run out, but our emotions tend to be driven by the present, and right now I'm one sad baseball fan.
Cardinal fans didn't need this. Not one bit. They had their year just a half-decade earlier, and Ranger fans have now seen their wait reach the quadruple-decade mark. My only hope is that this isn't this Ranger team's last chance. Yes, they have a great organization, and yes, they look like potential playoff contenders for years to come, but as many great teams that have fallen short can attest, you never know when the opportunity you're presented with might be your last. Hopefully the Rangers can take inspiration from the last team to lose two World Series in a row: the 1991-92 Atlanta Braves. They got their ring three years later, and while those Braves' legacy is viewed as somewhat disappointing, that 1995 flag flies forever. I sincerely hope these Rangers get their year in the near future.
Just so I don't sound like a complete wet bag, I'll say that I'm happy for a few members of the Cardinals:
42-year-old Arthur Rhodes has carved out a solid 20-year career, mostly as a lefty relief specialist, and now, with little likely left in the tank, he finally has a championship. I'm glad that he got to experience something like this before it was all said and done.
Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are two classy veteran sluggers winning their first titles. Neither is a Hall of Fame lock, but both have the potential to make it some day, depending on how much longer they can play at their current levels. Either way, they've gotten their turn at the summit, and even if they end up as mere Hall-of-Very-Gooders, they can always boast that they were once World Champions.
What the heck, I'm even happy for Corey Patterson, who was left off the playoff roster. I guess I have a soft spot for the Cubs' former top prospect, even if he's turned into nothing more than a journeyman who occasionally shows flashes of usefulness while remaining severely flawed in other facets of the game. He's a popular whipping boy, but he's now a popular whipping boy with a World Series ring.
Thus ends the 2011 season chapter of Major League Baseball. The 2011-12 offseason chapter now begins, and I can have my life back. Hopefully the 2012 season chapter gives us a conclusion worth cheering about.