Hello, I Must Be Going

Five days in the life: An anguished ALCS diary

[Editor's note: This final edition of Yard for 2002 consists of entries taken from Brad Zellar's online playoff Weblog, About Last Night, which can be seen in its entirety at citypages.com.]

 

Game 1: Twins 2, Angels 1

"Fun" doesn't even begin to describe this. As someone who routinely attended dozens of games every year throughout the Twins long post-'91 slide--as a paying customer, mind you--this whole experience has been tremendous and gratifying on more levels than I could begin to describe in my paralyzed, brain-static euphoria. You tend to forget that it's actually more exhausting to root for a winning team than a losing team. When the Twins sucked so bad in the mid- to late-'90s going to games was more or less like watching TV; it was something to do, but you no longer had any real investment of hope or enthusiasm in the experience. This sort of thing--playoff baseball--this is something entirely different. It might kill me.

The big question, of course, is: Is this the same Angels team that hit .376 in the Yankee series? And: Are the Twins once again a team of destiny?

 

Game 2: Angels 6, Twins 3

I hung around the ballpark until far too late and got drenched walking back downtown to my car and it's now almost three o'clock in the morning. Tonight was just the latest installment of the Good News, Bad News Bears. There was a banner hanging down the left field line that said, "Ravishing Rick Reed," and I hope like hell somebody was making fun of the guy and not actually trying to adopt him as a hero. Ravishing? Rick Reed?

I was happy Reed didn't get the nod to start game one of the divisional series, and I'll be glad when he's gone. The guy makes $7 million a year and he's about as gutless as they come. I honestly don't know what happens with pitchers like Reed, how they can go from dominating to essentially pitching batting practice from one start to the next. Face it, people: Reed spent the last half of the season padding his record against the dregs of the Central Division. Good teams just kick his fat ass all over the park.

He wasn't just bad tonight, he was unconscionably bad. Scott Klingenbeck bad. It was even more terrible than his last start against Oakland. In Reed's two playoff starts he's lasted just over ten innings and given up six home runs, a triple, a couple of doubles, five singles, and two walks. Clearly the cagey old veteran has been a godsend to the young Twins.

Jacque Jones would look mighty good in another uniform right now too. The way he's been swinging, he couldn't hit Rick Reed. And Ron Gardenhire? The guy couldn't manage a Happy Chef. Screw 'em all. They're gonna tear out my heart and spit on it, and then they're all going to go fishing for three months.

 

Game 3: Angels 2, Twins 1

There were so many moments that struck me as pivotal, starting with that nasty slider Milton threw to strikeout that dirtbag Erstad in the first, and Hunter's terrific catch of Salmon's drive. And how about Wooten's 12-pitch at bat in the second, culminating with a single into the hole with Spiezio running? Runners at first and third, one out, and I thought, uh oh, here we go. Then Milton gets Molina to pop up, and fans Gil to get out of the jam. But, shit, a 31-pitch second inning. I thought the Twins had to come right out and make something happen in the third to pick up their pitcher, and for about 10 minutes it looked like they would.

That was easily the worst game I've ever seen Corey Koskie play, and I figured this series was going to show the world what a gamer the guy is. And Troy Glaus? Up close that guy is the most imposing figure I think I've ever seen on a baseball diamond. Koskie doesn't even belong on the same field with Glaus. As ridiculous as it might sound, when Romero got down 3-1 to him I was secretly hoping he would just put him on and take his chances with the guys behind him. I knew what he would do with that 3-1 slider. And then, of course, we were looking at Troy Percival. Does that guy look like the orneriest fucker on the planet, or what? Percival looks like a heavy in a Sergio Leone Western, and I think the Twins sense they're whipped the minute the bullpen door opens and he starts his plug-assed, pigeon-toed trot in to the mound.

 

Game 4: Angels 7, Twins 1

Any day now, any minute, Winter's gray boys are gonna come goose-stepping up the dark street to give me a big, fat suppository full of melancholia, after which they'll drag me through a tunnel of failing light and put me on the black bus for the slow crawl to April. There's not a damn thing for it. It happens every year about this time, and it just so happens that the events of the past several days have put the grim procedure on an accelerated schedule. You know as well as I do that Seasonal Affective Disorder is just a fancy name for the end of the baseball season.

I will say that it was both wondrous and terrible to behold, and it made me a very unhappy man. You always hear talk of athletes "trying to do too much," and everybody in the Twins lineup right now is trying to do too much, including and perhaps especially the manager. I only wish they still brought the pitchers in from the bullpen in automobiles; that would have at least made for an entertaining diversion during the otherwise excruciating eighth inning. How many relievers can Ron Gardenhire fit in the back of a Volkswagen? And can any of them get anybody out?

Honest to God, I should be ashamed of myself for how much this stuff bothers me, how much it hurts. I know how unseemly it is that a stinking baseball game can make me such a miserable person. In less than 24 hours I managed to eat our entire supply of Halloween candy. I'm having a hard time moving the words tonight, Steve. I keep feeling them trying to climb up my throat and I can feel them falling back down into my stomach. I can almost hear them, can almost make out what they're trying to say. It's a painful feeling, the worst sort of indigestion. Of course that might just be all those Tootsie Rolls.

 

Game 5: Angels 13, Twins 5

If Gary Gaetti's immortal quote, "It's hard to play with both hands around your neck," didn't come to mind at some point during the last couple of games in Anaheim, then you're not a real Twins fan. You can blame Gardenhire all you want, but this was a full-team meltdown. The Twins came into the postseason with a reputation for excellent defense and proceeded to commit seven errors and surrender seven unearned runs. The top of the order, the middle of the order, the bottom of the order--point your finger in just about any direction and you can find a goat.

The team's bullpen picked up the slack for the struggling rotation all year, and had prolonged stretches of domination both before and after the All Star break. They then had a 5.11 ERA in the playoffs, and got absolutely rocked in the decisive fourth and fifth games in Anaheim. Five guys combined to give up 15 runs in games where the Twins were either leading or within striking distance. It couldn't have been any uglier. Especially today: 10 runs off four Twins relievers in the 7th.

Despite his first lousy outing, Rodriguez, the 20-year-old wunderkind of the series, got the victory, his fourth in the postseason. That's the sort of ridiculous, charmed thing that happens to teams of destiny. A guy like Adam Kennedy, who hit seven home runs all season, steps up and hits three in one game. That's the sort of thing that only happens to teams of destiny.

It's all very painful, but I guess I'll do what I'm supposed to do and tip my cap to Mike Scioscia for the job he did. I'm now prepared to acknowledge that the Angels were a better all-around team than my beloved Twins--mentally tougher, better prepared, and better managed.

And one last question: Now what am I supposed to do with my life?

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