What in the world happened last night? Even this morning — while reviewing the box-scores — I’m not sure I can believe what I’m seeing. A seven-run comeback — capped off by an incredible walk-off homerun — catapulted the Tampa Bay Rays into the post-season just minutes after the Boston Red Sox lost on a walk-off single. Over in the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies forced extra innings against the Atlanta Braves in a must-win game. Last night, the stakes were incredibly high — and the teams involved in those games did not disappoint. As a fan of the game, you couldn’t ask for more.
Ignore, for a minute, the implications of last night’s games and look at the bigger picture. On a much larger level, this is what motivates us as analysts of the game. The next time someone questions my devotion to the game of baseball, I have the perfect comeback — September 28th, 2011. The extreme ridiculousness and unpredictability of last night is what ignites our passion for the game. No one could have seen this coming, and we’re all still in shock and awe because of the events that took place.
Hell, less than two weeks ago Dave Cameron wrote up a piece telling Boston fans not to panic. While things turned out differently, that article was incredibly accurate when it was published. You’ll hear a lot about Boston’s epic collapse in the coming days — potentially on this site — but anyone that tells you they saw it coming is a huge liar. This was entirely unpredictable. I don’t want to speak for Dave, but, like many of us, I’m willing to bet he’s glad things didn’t shake out like they “should have.”
So, what does that mean for a site that prides itself on accurate projections and analysis? No matter how close we come to finding the most accurate data available; there’s still a significant portion of the game that we cannot predict or analyze. These intangibles lead to unpredictable results — and while they might throw off our projections and occasionally come back to bite us; I would argue that these are the situations that drive us as analysts of the game.
When something so crazy and unpredictable happens, it becomes our obligation to ask “why” or “how” it happened. As Joe Posnanski recently wrote about Bill James, curiosity played a major role in his ascent as the premier analyst in the game. Maybe we’ll never be able to accurately explain what happened in the final month of the 2011 season, but we’ll sure as hell give it a shot.
Of course, that’s just my take on the incredible events of last night. In the coming hours, you’ll be seeing actual analysis and responses to those events all over the internet. If that didn’t stir up your passion in the game; I’m not sure you have a soul. But as the mystique and shock of last night wears off, very smart people are going to start asking questions. It’s the answers to those questions that enhance and increase our understanding of the game. Until then, take the time to appreciate what happened last night and bask in the awesomeness of the game.