It's over, folks. Between some impressive defense and timely hitting from the San Francisco Giants, and a complete offensive collapse by the Detroit Tigers, the 2012 baseball season has ended in a World Series sweep. We now face that worst of all things: five months with no baseball. (Quick aside: right now, of course, there's something way worse than that barreling onto the East Coast. If you're anywhere in the path of Hurricane Sandy, stay safe, and keep an eye on alerts and announcements.)
Of course, for most of us, the season has been over for quite some time. Boston's season ended with a thud almost a month ago, as they stumbled to a 93-loss year. Strangely, there were any number of moments one could point to as the day we started seriously thinking about 2013, some of them terrifyingly early:
April 8th: Boston falls to 0-3 in crushing fashion, as the bullpen goes up in flames against the Tigers, recalling fears of the previous season's 0-6 start.
April 13th: A Friday, of course. Boston kicks off its first division series against Tampa, and promptly loses 2011 MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury to a dislocated shoulder.
May 10th: Josh Beckett returns to the rotation as local media shouters whip fans into an angry frenzy over reports that he played golf while rehabbing his back injury. Beckett gets shelled, boos rain down, and some of us start to hope the Sox will just go away.
July 8th: Boston loses to the Yankees, their sixth loss in seven games. A week prior, Boston stood at 42-37, had put together a winning June, and appeared right on the verge of a return to playoff contention. A sweep by the A's and three losses in New York later, and they were back at .500.
July 16th: Kevin Youkilis returns to Boston, and the Sox win thanks to a three-run homer in the 8th by Adrian Gonzalez. Because we couldn't have nice things this year, David Ortiz injured his heel rounding second, and would only appear in one more game.
August 25th: The Punto Trade. A quarter-billion dollars worth of players head out west, and Boston announces to the world that it's starting over.
September 19th: Boston falls to Tampa Bay, 13-3. It is their 82nd loss of the year, making 2012 the first losing season for the Red Sox since 1997.
October 3rd: Finally, the season comes to a crashing end. Boston is smashed by New York,14-2, their 12th loss in 13 games to close out the year.
It was that kind of season. The good moments were few and far between, standout performances were hard to find. The media outlook in Boston became uglier than I can ever remember it being, and the fanbase grew increasingly bitter as the season staggered on. There were times when each of us seriously considered just giving baseball a miss for the rest of the year, or switching our viewing (if not rooting) allegiance to one of the younger, more exciting teams making playoff runs.
And yet for all of that, it was still better than the next dark, cold months with no baseball at all. There will be hot stove speculation, and Winter Meetings coverage galore. We'll get to yell at each other about who got robbed and how dumb the voters are when the major awards are announced in a few weeks. (Seriously, mark your calendars, the AL MVP will be revealed on November 15th. Twitter will be, I imagine, epic.) Trades will fly about, there will be qualifying rounds for the World Baseball Classic (yes, that's happening again this spring). But that wondrous part of baseball season where every single day, you can get home from work, grab a beer, crash on the couch, and know there's a ballgame on? We won't have that back until April.
Last night, I watched the final game of the 2012 season, and watched as men in orange and black jumped and danced in celebration of a months-long triumph. While I was sad to know that it meant the end of baseball and the inevitable arrival of winter, it reminded me of one very important thing: next year the men jumping around could have red B's on their caps. It's not the most likely outcome, but it's among the possibilities. The slate's clean, a new season beckons, and it's bursting with possibility.
154 days till Opening Day.