Former commissioner Bart Giamatti (yes, father of the actor Paul Giamatti) said it best in his essay The Green Fields of the Mind. Here is the short version of his masterpiece:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. – A. Bartlett Giamatti

Tonight, on the 12th of October, just as the temperatures in Iowa have begun consistently flirting with the freezing mark, it would appear that baseball has once again deserted me.  After all, my Rockies have been eliminated from the playoffs.  After salvaging a split against the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love, they returned to the Mile High City needing simply to defend their own turf and win their two home games to continue on in the playoffs.

Sunday night’s game was a wrenching defeat, made even more difficult by the phantom hit of Chase Utley.  After the game, the umpire admitted that he had the call wrong, and that the play should have been ruled a foul ball, forcing Utley back into the batter’s box, rather than allowing the result of the play to stand.

Monday night’s game, if possible, was even more heartbreaking.  At long last, it appeared that the Rockies were getting a few breaks.  In the seventh inning, trailing by a run, Seth Smith reached second when Raul Ibanez misplayed a ball in the outfield.  Unfortunately, Barmes and Spilly stranded Smith.

In the eighth inning, the luck finally turned the complete 180 I had been waiting for.  With one out in the inning and speedster Dexter Fowler on first base, Todd Helton hit a ball to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley that should have been an easy double play to end the inning.  Fowler – who was running behind Utley (because running in front of Utley would have screened Utley from the ball and would have been interference on Fowler) decided to leap over Utley.  In the midst of the chaotic play, shortstop Jimmy Rollins mishandled the toss from Utley – Fowler and Helton were both safe.

If Fowler was able to hurdle Utley without making contact, this would have been a legal play.  If he did make contact, I believe this could have been ruled interference, although I’m not 100% sure of this.  In any case, it seemed that the balance of “weird sh*t” plays had been restored, with the Fowler play compensating for the Utley play on Sunday.  It seems impossible that he could have jumped over Utley without touching him, right?  Then again, Fowler is a great athlete.

Sure enough, the hits kept coming.  Jason Giambi knocked home Fowler to tie the game and Yorvit Torrealba doubled to plate two more runs to push the Rockies out to a 4-2 lead.  After three Phillies had come to the plate in the 9th inning, there were two out and a runner on first base.  Victory was easily within grasp.

At which point the floodgates opened.  After Utley walked on a full count (meaning that the Rockies were just a strike away from victory) big bopper Ryan Howard tied the game with a double and Jason Werth put Philly ahead for good, plating Howard.  The Rockies put on two runners in the bottom of the ninth, but Troy Tulowitzki struck out the end the season.

So, then, where do we go from here?

Well, first of all, the playoffs are still ongoing, despite the absence of the Rockies.  Each series has a team that I hate (Dodgers and Yankees), making it easy to pull for the Phillies and Angels.  Certainly I will watch much more post-season baseball – and when I am unable to watch, I will be listening.

OK, but after the season actually ends.  Then what?

Well, free agency isn’t far away.  The one pending free agent who is near and dear to my heart, of course, is Matt Holliday.  Will Holliday sign with a team I like (Cardinals) or a team I hate (Yankees – ack)?  Certainly, I will engage people in banter about why the free agent compensation is horribly flawed and needs to be completely redone.

There is the Arizona Fall League and winter leagues in Latin America, of course.  I intend to follow them with much more passion this year.  I’ll even pick out a team at some point.

There are many baseball books in my personal library that I need to finish – everything from books of the physics of the sport to Tim Kurkjian’s feel good  book “Is This  A Great Game, of What?

Then, of course, the new books will come out.  Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster (The Bible of Fanalytics) is the one I eagerly anticipate each year, but surely another one or two books will catch my eye.  I’ll dust off my printed copy of the baseball collective bargaining agreement and read a few more sections.  While I can’t say for certain that I am more familiar with the CBA than the typical player, I wouldn’t be shocked if this were the case.

I’ll spend some time researching things on the web, of course.  Baseball has wonderful tools, and I’ll have to make sure to use them all at some point.  John Sickels will certainly be at work during the winter, informing the world about minor league players on Minor League  And my peeps at Purple Row will be chattering about the Rockies all winter long.

Then, of course, there will be a short break for the winter Olympics, which features luge and a bunch of lesser sports.  By the time luge wrap up, spring training will be here, and the cycle will begin anew.

You see, there really is no offseason – simply a different phase of the year-long baseball season.


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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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