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.
Name: Steve Wynn
Band: The Baseball Project
Position: Vocals, Guitar
This kinda kills me as a Yankees fan, but I was probably most excited in 2012 by teams like the A's, Pirates and Orioles, who did so much with so little, while the "Just Throw Money At It" philosophy of the Angels, Dodgers, Marlins and Phillies left those teams with a lot of time on their hands in October. So I guess that in 2013, I should hope that the Yankees dump any player making more than $2 million a year, sign up a bunch of high school kids and take it all the way to the World Series. Seems like a good plan, and I'm sure they'd pass the savings along to the fans. Is it February yet?
Name: Joshua Epstein
Band: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Position: Vocals, Keyboards
The 2012 season was a particularly exciting one for us as Detroiters. Although it ended in a not-so-groovy way, we remain hopeful that our future is bright. It's a beautiful, intensely frustrating game of strategy and luck. We can only hope that "the luck" returns to Detroit in 2013.
Name: Scott Ian
I'm happy for the Giants. They're a great organization, and they proved they're the team to beat this decade (so far). As far as next year, a Yankees lineup sans A-Rod would make me very happy.
Name: Steve Earle
Position: Vocals, Guitar
Even as a lifelong Yankees fan who did not grow up in the city, I've never gotten used to the bitching and moaning of native New Yorkers when the Yanks come up short. "How does a lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson go completely silent in the postseason?" they whine.
Because it's baseball, dumbass. Mysterious and baffling. Analyzing it may or may not be a science (or at least a science project), but playing it at the major league level is an art and a Herculean feat. We mere mortals are only witnesses to the miracle, and it would behoove us all to shut the fuck up.
Name: Ken Casey
Band: Dropkick Murphys
Position: Bass guitar, Vocals
MLB 2012 was all about strong bullpens. The San Francisco Giants had four strong relief pitchers, while teams that relied on power and speed came up short. My hope for 2013 is for the Red Sox to strengthen their 'pen, and put baseball ahead of personality differences!
Name: Vinnie Paul
Band: Hellyeah, Pantera
The 2012 season was extremely exciting and full of surprises, like the Giants sweeping the World Series. I'm a homer and am lookin' forward to whatever changes the Texas Tangers make for next year to help them get back to the World Series and finally win one. Until next year! Go Rangers! HELLYEAH!
Name: Joe Pernice
Band: Pernice Brothers
Position: Vocals, Guitar
I'd have to say 2012 was one of the weirdest seasons I can recall. The World Series was pretty boring to watch. Found myself flipping between the games and reruns of Antiques Roadshow. Seriously. And I'm talking the crummy Canadian version of the Roadshow.
What can I say about the 2012 Red Sox? To borrow a phrase (learned from Ben Wheelock of the band Eiffel Tower) inspired by Latrell Sprewell: the 2012 Red Sox totally choked the coach. Pretty much a no-show from Day One. Wasn't expecting that. And I really thought Bobby V was going to be way more effective. Even if he/they fared poorly, never would have predicted the season they had. That said, I'm extremely hopeful for next year. (Oh, shit. I was extremely hopeful last off-season.)
Name: George Thorogood
Band: George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Position: Vocals, Guitar
I did not think anything could top the year 2011; 2010 was great and nothing could top 2011, but 2012 was great. The extra wild card – don't know who thought that up, the Commissioner, whatever – that worked out, and it was a fanatic season.
Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants and their third base coach, my homeboy Tim Flannery. My hopes for 2013? I'm not hoping – I am absolutely guaranteeing that baseball will deliver and have an even better season. Baseball always comes through and never lets us down. P.S.: 100 days until spring training. Hooray!
Name: Handsome Dick Manitoba
My first question each and every year, immediately following the last out of the World Series, is "when do pitchers and catchers report?" I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because the only game that counts to me, the greatest game ever invented, is . . . over. Then the overwhelming sadness sets in. Months of short days, cold weather, bundled-up, mummified girls, and no baseball. Endless reports of football, which I like, and basketball and hockey, take up way too much time on my TV.
I enjoyed this baseball season immensely. I loved all of the teams that carried hope into September. I loved the no-name Giants winning the World Series the old-fashioned way – with pitching, defense, patient hitting and small ball. I loved the fact that my beloved New York Yankees won 95 games, their division and a playoff series against the O's, with glue and string and lots of magic and luck. I love that they made it to the "Final 4" of baseball. I hated the last week, the Detroit series blanking.
I have one hope for 2013, the same hope I have had for what will be 59 years in January: That the Yankees win the World Series. C'mon, number 28! See you all in February. Welcome, Hot Stove!
Dan Epstein's book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s, is now available in paperback.