"It all happened so fast. I don't know what happened," said New York Yankee general manager Brian Cashman after his team bowed out of the postseason playoffs.
Three other general managers -- Terry Ryan of the Minnesota Twins, Ned Colletti of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kevin Towers of the San Diego Padres -- know the feeling expressed by Cashman. Only the four teams that lose in the opening round of the best-of-five playoffs experience the feeling of going from champagne-soaked celebrations to the bottom of the sea in such a short period of time.
Cashman's Yankees appeared to be heavy favorites over the Detroit Tigers, a team that hadn't had a sniff of a winning season in years. Many experienced observers were calling the Yankees' lineup the best of all-time. That lineup was made to look helpless by the Tigers' pitching staff after the Yankees opened the series with a victory.
Ryan's Twins had staged a remarkable comeback to win the Central Division in the American League, moving the Tigers to a Wild Card position. With one of the game's best pitchers, Johan Santana, in place to start the opening game against the Oakland Athletics, it appeared Minnesota was set to move past the A's and keep their hot streak in place. Oakland, of course, had other ideas and prevailed in the series.
Colletti and Towers had seen their teams play very well down the stretch as the Dodgers took the Wild Card spot and the Padres won the West Division in the National League.
Colletti's Dodgers appeared to receive a big break when the New York Mets lost two of their top starting pitchers just before the start of the postseason. The Padres, meanwhile, were going up against a St. Louis team that had struggled badly during the final month of the regular season.
The Dodgers went down in three consecutive games to the Mets and the Padres managed only one win against the Cardinals.
Four GMs with thoughts and hopes of seeing their teams advance to the World Series now pull up a chair to watch the remaining postseason games and turn their full attention to the 2007 season.
The letdown isn't just in the baseball departments of the organizations that lost in the first round. All of the postseason plans for tickets, marketing and pregame festivities have been swept away.
In two of the cases, the team owners have expressed the type of public disappointment that could lead to changes beyond those being planned by the general managers themselves.
"I'm monumentally disappointed," Padres owner John Moores told MLB.com after his team lost its first two games to the Cardinals. "This year we were supposed to win this thing."
"I am deeply disappointed at our being eliminated so early in the playoffs," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner declared in a statement issued by his public relations spokesman. "This result is absolutely not acceptable to me nor to our great Yankee fans."
The statements have to weigh heavily on two very capable general managers -- Towers of the Padres and Cashman of the Yankees. Both GMs made several key moves that helped their teams reach postseason play. The other part of the equation is that both GMs are known to be supportive of their managers, Bruce Bochy of the Padres and Joe Torre of the Yankees. When it comes to the decision on a manager, however, it is quite often that ownership will take the lead hand.
A few base hits here or there could have changed the postseason script for all four teams. The opportunities were present, the key hits were lacking.
It's amazing how quickly things have changed for the four general managers who had their teams lose in the first round of the postseason. In a few cases, the GMs haven't even had a chance to get their champagne-soaked clothes back from the cleaners.
More important, I hope neither Towers nor Cashman get hung out to dry when it comes to the call on their managers. Both GMs have earned the right to be heard.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. His book, "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue," was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.