When the summer ends

This was Paul Konerko's last summer with the White Sox.

This was Paul Konerko’s last summer with the White Sox.

It’s unseasonably warm today. As September crawls to a close and gets ready to give way to October, it’s 84 degrees in Boston, t-shirt weather that seems more appropriate for at least a month earlier.

It’s been a weird summer that way. After a brutal winter that practically wiped out spring until mid-May, there were fewer brutally hot days than New England is used to, but all the same, the summer seemed to whip by. And what started with so much hope and ramped-up expectations quickly gave way to a different kind of hope, one directed towards the future and peppered with attempts to find the good as the chaos reigned for so long.

A season that started with the Red Sox as World Series champions, with Derek Jeter in New York and Paul Konerko in Chicago and Adam Dunn bashing home runs indiscriminately ends today with none of those things happening. The Sox fell apart and traded away a number of players who were so important to a championship a year ago — Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew among them. Jeter’s bat went into hiding with his already AWOL glove, but he kept his spot near the top of the order all year as the Yankees missed the playoffs again. Konerko went quiet, too, but he gave way to his successor, Jose Abreu.

Abreu took that chance for all it was worth, setting rookie records for the White Sox and giving the game another glimpse of life behind Cuba’s embargoed curtain. Yasiel Puig had his struggles in Los Angeles, but his future looks as bright as ever. And here, Rusney Castillo gave fans a quick September preview of what could be a long and fun career as Boston’s center fielder.

Meanwhile, the A’s and Tigers went from looking like to powerhouses on a collision course had to scrap their way just to make it as one of the 10 teams to play beyond today. The Angels took advantage of those struggles and ran up the best record in the American League, while the A’s are left to travel to Kansas City, who are playing beyond their 162nd game for the first time in 29 years.

None of this makes any sense when laid out in March, and with September coming to an end, it makes all the sense in the world, because that’s reality. We’re pared down to 10 teams now. After Tuesday, it’ll be eight, then four, then two, then one, with one city holding a parade and the other 29 plotting out the next summer. As the process winds down, the number of fans waiting for that next six-month stretch grows.

This is not intended as another in the long line of baseball pieces pining for summer in an effort to turn the game into a metaphor for America or a simpler time or life itself. It’s just an acknowledgment of how big a role it plays in day-to-day for half the year. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it sucks, but it’s there just about every day. Even when it’s bad, it’s good. It never lasts and it never disappears.

On cue, the NHL season starts in less than two weeks. By the end of October we’ll have a new champion and at least a few moments that will go down in history, to be replayed and discussed endlessly. The weather will get colder, we’ll all bundle up and think about what’s next. But this version of the day-to-day grind comes to a close today. Even if it’s nice out, it’s just part of the illusion masking that the best part of the summer is already gone.


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