I went through it in 1993 when the Phillies blew two saves to lose to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games and again in 2009 with the loss to the Yankees. I even went through it in 2008, when the Phillies won just their second World Series in franchise history and didn’t even lose more than one game in any postseason series along the way.
The reason is simple: the World Series is the most unpredictable, agonizing championship of all. Each game can turn on one pitch, one steal, one error, one hit, one base-running play, one great defensive play. Hell, the Rangers are here thanks in large part to an incredible, timely steal by Ian Kinsler just a game after he was gunned down trying to do the same thing, an uncharacteristic error by the game’s best player that let Elvis Andrus take an extra base and Mike Napoli doing a little bit of everything in every game.
In this series alone, Jaime Garcia has thrown a seven-inning, three-hit gem, only to see his team lose in the ninth. A player who can barely walk is manning center field and hitting a key sac fly.
Albert Pujols put on an offensive performance never before seen on this stage. A young lefthander who can’t even grow a mustache properly has pitched better than everyone, including a Cy Young counterpart in the other dugout. That type of unpredictability is what makes watching the game so difficult to stomach. At any moment, the game can change. While that is true to a certain extent in other sports, it’s nowhere near to the same degree.
Think about it … in the Super Bowl, you can see how the game is playing out. If it’s tight, you know the team that makes the last big play wins. And if one team gets ahead, the trailing team has to fight against the opposition and the clock. The same holds true for hockey and basketball. Those games have ebbs and flows, and the third element, the clock, is always in play.
Not so in baseball. There is no running out the clock, milking the clock, having the clock as your ally or foe. The game isn’t over until you get that 27th out (at least). You can’t outlast your opponent; you can only outscore them. You have to earn the victory. And until that 27th out is recorded, anything can happen. That magnifies everything to an excruciating degree. The simplest of mistakes or most routine of plays can be the difference between a win and loss, a World Series ring or a choke.
When it’s your team involved, it’s agonizing. More agonizing than just about anything. I’ve seen all my teams in the big game – the Flyers against the Blackhawks and Red Wings; the Eagles against the Patriots; the Sixers against the Lakers – and as difficult and intense as it was to watch them all, nothing was more vomit-inducing, heart-wrenching than the Phillies in the World Series.
The World Series is not for the feint of heart. In fact, you could argue it’s for the masochists of the world. Because the World Series is the most agonizing championship of them all. So say a prayer for Kenny tonight, because he and his fellow Rangers and Cardinals fans will be in agony, all the way through.