It Ain’t Over

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It Ain’t Over.

Many times when we find ourselves in tight spots we call it quits and throw in the towel at 11:59 – one minute before midnight; one minute too early – and a moment too soon.  But as the old saying goes, “it ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings.” A better, more spiritual way of putting it is “it ain”t over till God says it’s over.”  Joseph was in the pit, Daniel was in the Lion’s den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in the fiery furnace, Peter, Paul and Silas were in jail, and Jesus was nailed to a rugged cross and then buried in a borrowed tomb.

And we all know how the story ends. Joseph made it all the way to the palace; Daniel was named as the No. 3 Man in the empire, the three Hebrew boys made it out of the fire unscathed,  Peter, Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from prison, and Jesus rose from the dead.  It ain’t over until God says it’s over!

Let’s equate this to baseball.

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For baseball fans, this is the 3rd best time of the year. The first is the World Series (especially if your team is in it). The 2nd best is the beginning of the season. And the 3rd best is the month before the playoffs, or the pennant race.

Read what Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post said about this year’s pennant race: “In baseball playoff chase, never give up too soon.

‘I still think we’re in a pennant drive, not a salary drive’ says Nationals Manager Davey Johnson, whose Nats were 101 / 2 games behind Cincinnati for the last wild-card spot Aug. 19, but trail the Reds by seven games and “just” six in the all-important loss column.

The late-season chase, even when it fails, is one of baseball’s pleasant bonuses. Fans in towns with successful baseball traditions know that, once you’ve endured the disappointment of falling behind, you get the free ride of sniffing a big comeback but shrugging if it doesn’t happen. Washington has had so few talented teams in 80 years that many fans don’t get what seems obvious to fans of “miracle-comeback” teams such as the 2011 Cardinals, who were 10½ games out of the wild card Aug. 25 but won the World Series, or the 2012 A’s, who went 33-13 to erase a 13-game deficit and won the division.

In just the past two years, six teams have imploded to lose division titles or a playoff spot. It’s tempting to think the team ahead of you “only has to play .500 the rest of the way and we’re dead.” But that’s not baseball. There is no “play .500” button to push.

In ’12, the Pirates, on a 93-win pace, the Dodgers, leading the NL West, and the White Sox, leading the AL Central, had late-season collapses of 9-23, 9-17 and 12-21 to murder their seasons.  And Texas ended the season 2-7, lost the division on the final day, then bombed in the wild-card play-in game.

This year, the Red Sox, Rays, A’s and Reds are the teams in roughly similar spots. The Pirates are printing playoff tickets and discussing October rotation issues. But they’re just eight games ahead of Arizona in wild-card standings.

In ’11, the Red Sox (8-21) and Braves (8-18) had the ignominious slumps that wouldn’t stop until they were snuffed from the postseason on the last day of the season. Movie script: “It Happens Every September.”

The past two weeks of the season are just as treacherous. That “magic-number” countdown phrase — “we only need to win X games” — is fatal thinking. Far better to be the chaser with only one thought: “We have to win every game.”

It aint over till it’s over.

Thomas Boswell
August 28, 2013

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