In Dennis Eckersley's long and illustrious Hall of Fame career, there were plenty of highlights. But, there's one moment of failure that he'll never be able to escape.
Surrendering a game-winning home run
to a gimpy Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, when the fire-balling
right-hander was closing games for the
In a postseason that's been filled with misplayed fly balls, blown saves and shoddy baserunning, there's no shortage of players feeling the same emotions experienced by Eckersley in the wake of their October gaffes.
The in-studio analyst for TBS discussed the sudden rash of less-than-spectacular plays and the effects on those who make them Monday night.
"It stays with you until you get back out there again," Eckersley said. You have to live with it until the next time. What if there's not a next time? Who's to say [there will be], right?"
Perhaps the most glaring error in this young postseason came from St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, who dropped the would-be final out in Game 2 of an NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers -- an error that allowed the Dodgers an improbable comeback victory.
"I guess the best thing that came out of it was that it wasn't the end," Eckersley said. "If it was the last game, that would have been worse, or even if it was a walk-off. At the same time, it doesn't take away from the fact that it was devastating."
The Cardinals were eventually swept in three games, leaving Holliday with an entire winter to think about what could have been if he'd been able to corral that final out. Eckersley points out that being the goat is just as big a part of the game as being the hero.
"He has to take that with him to wherever he goes because he's a free agent," Eckersley said. "It's a character-builder. It truly is. Nobody needs that kind of humbling, but you know, that's how this game can grab you at any given time."
Holliday is hardly the only player who must deal with a sour taste in their mouth during the offeason. The Minnesota Twins turned in several head-scratching baserunning decisions that helped the Yankees sweep them away and Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a save in the decisive Game 3 against the Los Angeles Angeles.
"Papelbon, to me, is devastating because he has not had a ton of failure," Eckersley said. "I said it on the air, and I didn't mean it to be mean, that he has lived the charmed life. He hasn't had any big blows .. He's been absolutely lights-out, so let's see how he handles it."
Looking forward, Ecksersley notes that there's a silver lining to every failure.
Each one is a chance at redemption.
For him, the sour taste of 1988 was quickly washed out when he was able to lead his A's to the 1989 World Series title.
And much like the Cardinals fans greeted Holliday with a standing ovation upon his return to Busch Stadium, A's supporters backed Eckersley when he first took the mound in 1989 -- a gesture that helped him get back to business on the mound.
"I got one when I got back to
In reality, however, there's no guarantee that the chance at redemption will come as quickly for this year's crop goats. They won't all follow Eckersely's path back to the top -- something the former reliever realizes.
"I was so lucky," he said. "Think about it. The following year we win the whole thing and I get the ball in my hands for the last out. I'm so grateful that happened."