Their epic collapse, however, should not obscure a basic question that must be asked about the structure of the national pastime:
What does it say about the value — even the legitimacy — of baseball's regular season that the playoffs can so quickly wipe out what took half a year to create?
To pique fan interest, lure sponsors and maximize TV ratings, MLB has, over time, adopted a three-tiered playoff system — four divisional series leading to two championship series to, finally, the World Series — which by definition diminishes the meaning of the regular season.
Talk about your mixed messages. On the one hand, the game is at its pastoral best when it is played out over time, when it meanders through the summer like a lazy river, when patience is rewarded, when one game by itself may mean so little.
Then, once we hit October, baseball becomes manic. The marathon turns into a sprint, especially in the division series, which still are the quirkiest of arrangements, just a quick, best-of-five-games test.
The only obvious solution to this is the imposition of a best-of-162 Division Series.
Or we can realize that life ain't fair, and just because you don't win a championship doesn't mean the season wasn't a success.