Cumberland Times-News

October 13, 2012

We had joy, we had fun in this season in the sun

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— Congratulations to the Yankees for winning a terrific postseason series over the Orioles. Kudos, as well, to the Yankee who said after game 5, noting that the Yankees had won 12 games over the Orioles this season, scoring 103 runs, and that the Orioles had won 11 over the Yankees, scoring 101 runs, “If we played them tomorrow, they’d probably win.”

Cheers to the baseball fans of Baltimore and Washington. How well you both distinguished yourselves and your cities. What a great feeling it’s been for so many in the Mid-Atlantic to experience playoff baseball again. Nothing in the world beats it. There’s no better feeling than, after 15 years, wanting to smack the smug off of Derek Jeter’s kisser because your team is finally playing against him in a meaningful game again.

And, in all seriousness, condolences to Washington Nationals fans for one of the most brutal losses in postseason history. The Nats’ future is so off-the-charts bright, but it’s going to take awhile to get over that one.

Congratulations to the defending world champion Cardinals, who were a strike away from elimination on five — five — different occasions, yet somehow managed to win game 5 to advance. That’s playoff baseball, and that’s why St. Louis is the defending world champ.

Also, congratulations to one of the greatest Yankees of them all, Cal Ripken Jr. You, sir, must be very pleased to be able to spend another postseason series schmoozing up “Derek,” “Alex” and “Tex” on TBS with Ernie Johnson (who is excellent) and with John Smoltz (now rated 1A behind Jim Palmer on my baseball analyst power ratings).

My having always been an Eddie Murray man aside, Ripken the analyst lost me at hello. Rather, after I had my blood pressure checked, he lost me last Friday during the wild card game in Texas. Not that he cares, of course. How, after all, could he care when, as a lifelong Orioles fan and Orioles player, and supposedly such a source of Baltimore civic pride, he says into an open microphone to a nation of baseball fans that the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre is the best third baseman he’s ever seen? Then adding, just so we knew we heard correctly, “Sorry, Brooksie.”

Ripken is certainly entitled to believe Beltre is the best third baseman he’s ever seen, just as I am entitled to believe Eddie Murray and Cecil Fielder should have been named American League Most Valuable Player in 1983 and 1991, the years Ripken won the award. I will, however, give Ripken the nod for his MVPs in the ’91 and ’01 All-Star games. He always did turn up big in exhibitions and in games that would be followed by a postgame ceremony honoring him.

Nothing against Beltre, for I absolutely love him as a baseball player, but, honestly, even if it were true, what an absurdly insensitive thing for Ripken to say. Who knows what motivated him to make a point of saying that the way he did? But if you want to know how sensitive Baltimore is to it, read Tony Lombardi’s blog, “Was that ‘Carl’ in the TBS booth last night?” on russellstreetreport.com and check out the responses that follow it. My personal favorite is the one submitted by RavColt, who wrote, “I know Brooks Robinson, Cal, and you are no Brooks Robinson.”

As for the current Orioles, they bring to mind the Orioles of the early 1960s who won anywhere from 89 to 97 games each season, only to fall two or three games short of the Yankees in the standings during the days when only one team from each league advanced to the postseason.

That changed, of course, in 1966 when Frank Robinson came along. And while there are no more Frank Robinsons or Eddie Murrays out there, if the Orioles can get a legitimate bopper for the middle of the order it will make everybody in that lineup better, including Adam Jones, who had such a difficult and costly postseason at the plate and in the field.

Jones is the Orioles’ best player, and there’s no way the club gets to the postseason without him. But they wouldn’t have gotten there without any of them. What a likeable group of guys. What a team — a team in the truest sense of the word.

It’s too bad they had to lose a series that was likely decided by one costly defensive lapse, but I think the biggest thing is — as exhibited by the outpouring of emotion by Pirates and Nationals fans when their teams, for better or worse, finished their seasons at home — we’ll miss them.

Through the coming months, we’ll miss the team. We’ll miss the day-to-day. We’ll miss baseball, the greatest game of them all.

“It breaks your heart,” wrote A. Bartlett Giamatti. “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.”

Pitchers and catchers report in 125 days.

One hundred seventy-three days until Opening Day.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com.