High and Tight: Looking Back at a Season of Surprises
And just like that, it was over: Sergio Romo's 89-m.p.h., down-the-middle fastball froze Miguel Cabrera at the plate like somebody'd just stabbed him in the skull with a stalactite, and the San Francisco Giants were once again the champions of the baseball world. The Fall Classic sweep by the Giants, who were widely considered to be underdogs against the briefly unstoppable Tigers, was really just the final exclamation point on a season of surprises.
The late baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote that baseball is "designed to break your heart," and it's safe to say that no one except Giants fans emerged from this season unscathed by heartbreak. (I've been a Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs fan since childhood, and both teams gave me serious agita this year in vastly different if equally effective ways – the Tigers by failing to actually show up for the World Series, the Cubs by failing to be even remotely entertaining in their abject suckitude.) But only a person suckled by a lemon would have been unable to derive at least some degree of delight from the 2012 baseball season.
Where to begin? Pablo Sandoval's Panda-riffic MVP performance in the World Series? Cabrera snagging the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski? Three perfect games (and four other no-nos) in the same season? R.A. Dickey making the knuckleball sexy again? Mike Trout coming out of relative nowhere to become the season's real rookie sensation, eclipsing the grotesquely overhyped Bryce Harper? A truly exciting September, capped by the no-name, low-budget Oakland A's stealing the AL West from the Texas Rangers in their final game of the season, followed by one of the wildest, most unpredictable Octobers in recent memory? The Baltimore Orioles finishing over .500 (and earning a playoff birth) for the first time since the Clinton administration? A Washington team making the postseason for the first time since FDR was elected President? Forty-year-old journeyman Raul Ibanez suddenly coming on like Reggie Jackson (or at least Chris Chambliss) in the playoffs? Damn.
Or, if schadenfreude is more your bag, how 'bout the Angels, Marlins and Dodgers all failing to make the playoffs despite spending sprees that would have shamed the Pentagon? Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Valentine's Technicolor managerial meltdowns? Josh Hamilton's bizarre battles with chewing tobacco and caffeine? Melky Cabrera compounding his PED disgrace by concocting a bogus website for a nutritional supplement in a hilariously feeble attempt to clear his name? The Nationals spectacularly blowing their NLDS to the Cardinals, while saving shut-down ace Stephen Strasburg for future playoff games that might never come? A-Rod getting busted for macking on a bikini model during Game One of the ALCS? C'mon – it was all pure gold, wasn't it? 2012 was such a fun season, with so much good stuff to savor, and I'm deeply sorry to see it fade in the rearview mirror. But before we head off and huddle around the hot stove for the winter, we thought we'd ask our esteemed panel of rock & roll seamheads to reflect upon this past season, and offer up their hopes for 2013.
Name: Scott McCaughey
Band: The Baseball Project, The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows
Position: Guitar, Vocals
It's hard for me to have much negative to say about 2012, in lieu of the miraculous continued success of the super-cool, unassuming, never-say-die SF Giants and the even crazier ascent of an out-of-nowhere Oakland A's team. I also cheered the Orioles finally making that climb back to relevance, in a division where no one could really have given them a chance. The Nationals were a great story, too.
Conversely, I didn't mind seeing the big-money Angels miss the playoffs, whilst still thrilling at the nightly exploits of Mike Trout, surely one of the most exciting players to emerge in decades. I sadly accepted Ichiro's move to pinstripes, and was indeed happy for him as he frankly out-performed and out-classed the rest of the Yankees in their stretch run. I'm not yet convinced about the new Wild Card format – but not greatly perturbed by it either. All in all, 2012 just had to be one of the strangest and most unpredictable of MLB seasons, and what's not to love about that? As for 2013, I am hoping for more of the same, with a few less steroid suspensions and a few less Tommy John surgeries.