And that is how the season ends. For hundreds of thousands of sports fans, one of the greatest World Series ever played just ended, though with an anti-climactic finish. The moments and games will be replayed for as long as sports history is recounted on the expanse of media.
For Rangers fans, this was not a great series. Memorable, thrilling games could not be enjoyed, because of what was on the line. They will be fumbling for the remote whenever ESPN goes to the great moments of Game Six. The anti-climactic finish, meanwhile, at least makes things a little less painful.
The Rangers have come so far from where they once were. They have gone from five decades of being perennial nobodies to back-to-back league champions. They have an ever-increasing ability to spend cash, a newly-energized fan base, a stacked Major League roster, and one of the strongest farm systems around ready to replenish them when the time comes. Pennants are never guaranteed, but the Texas Rangers remain one of the best bets to go back sooner, rather than later.
Yet here they are, having now lost back-to-back World Series. One without even showing up, and one in historic fashion. Twice a strike away from winning, twice with relievers staked to multi-run leads, and twice coming short, only to fall flat when given a second chance.
Tonight Chris Carpenter was not at his best, but the hitters could not take advantage. Ron Washington repeatedly held back the offense with ridiculous bunt calls, but that likely was not the difference between winning and losing. What may have been the difference, though, was the Jerry Layne strikezone.
Emphasis on may, but it looked like this:
That was tonight's strikezone, with red baseball-sized rings placed around the Cardinals' pitches which were called balls, despite the center crossing the front of the plate outside the zone. A few were borderline, maybe even strikes. The Cardinals were not given an exceptionally large zone outside of regulations.
The green circles are the problem. Those are the Rangers pitches that at least clipped the front of the plate within the zone, all closer to the zone than some pitches the Cardinals got, and there are a ton of them. There are 13, in fact, with a few that may have crossed the plate before the end of their flight.
In short, for whatever reason (note: that reason is not bias), the Rangers were given a different -- smaller -- strikezone than the Cardinals. They lost by four runs, and the offense managed to plate two batters -- both in the first inning -- so Layne may well have altered nothing meaningful. It should also be no surprise if someone goes and looks up strikezones from previous postseason games and finds one that favored the Rangers. You cannot pin losing the World Series entirely on the umpires, but baseball should not be like this. We should not be subjected to human error in officiating that might favor one of the teams -- even if not on purpose -- on the biggest stage the game has to offer.
Couple that with the wrong first base call in game three, and Rangers fans have what-ifs to try and avoid thinking about for the rest of their life outside of just the players. What if C.J. Wilson does not lose the All-Star Game? What if Elvis Andrus goes to second? What if Michael Young could be the player on the big stage the media expected him to be? What if Darren Oliver could simply get through the weak part of a lineup without allowing two runs?
It is fortunate game seven did not have a whole lot of those what-ifs. The offense scored twice immediately, then sputtered for the rest of the game. Matt Harrison failed for the second time in the series. The team that may have been the best in baseball looked absolutely awful for the last 12 innings of their season, and that cost their fans the best chance they have ever had of seeing a championship.
The silver linings, of course, are the state of the franchise. Once we get closer to the start of next season, we can all enjoy the future still looking great, and having had success many teams would actually kill for in recent years. But boy, this hurts, and finding someone to understand the pain will be difficult.
Congratulations to the Cardinals on their 11th world championship. They did not just win the World Series because the Rangers ended it with awful play, or because of good luck, or because of bad umpiring. They won because they did not give up on their season, and they played great baseball against three very good teams for a month.
- Matt Harrison -14%
- Scott Feldman -12%
- Elvis Andrus -8%