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With fist raised, a triumphant slugger rounding first makes for the perfect commercial-ready moment, a triumphant still begging for Ken Burns to pan around in. But even in the throes of celebration, the more compelling sight, if you ask me, is that shot of the reliever, chin crumpled into chest, walking that impossibly long walk from mound to dugout.

Even the topography of that walk accentuates the failure: From on top of the mound, the Sad Reliever must follow the downward slope onto the infield grass. No teammates are near for an encouraging word or pat on the butt. The temptation, I would think, is to run into the private bosom of the tunnel as fast as possible. But they all, bravely, walk—and it’s a slow walk, as if stretching out the moment of shame will somehow serve as penance for their irreversible sin.

Not even kidding here: I always, always feel genuinely agony for the Sad Reliever. The long winter has crept up from nowhere, in some cases going into effect immediately, for the Sad Reliever to constantly replay the error of his ways. The chances that the Sad Reliever will ever be able to atone for his October disaster are slim. And besides, it would take dozens of regular season strikeouts for the scales to start to tip back to even. All the Sad Reliever has is the quiet nobility of continuing to play in the majors, albeit with one huge wart on his resume.

Even if one is a lifelong Yankees fan, I do declare that it was and is impossible not to feel sorrow for Byung-Hyun Kim for his role in the 2001 World Series. Watching the replay now, there appears to be a deep and ominous bell signaling midnight (and as Halloween crossed over to All Saints’ Day, no less) and resounding throughout Yankee Stadium mere moments before Kim’s darkest hour. One suspects that Shakespeare himself probably penned a tragedy set in this precise way:

Look at this man. Kim’s home in Korea must have felt so very far away at this moment:


(He would be an All-Star the next season.)

Similarly, the most emotion I felt watching baseball at any time last season was this moment from the NLDS. As you watch this you will recall how Fredi Gonzales was raked across the hot-take coals for not inserting a warmed-up Craig Kimbrel into this game, with six outs to go. This only increases the suffering, I would say, heaped upon David Carpenter at this moment, who was only doing the job that he had been asked to do:

Look at this man:


(He would retire the rest of the side in order.)

And so, with the stakes now set, let us proceed to the Sad Relievers of the 2014 postseason, ranked from the least to most sorrow that they stirred within me. These rankings are objective, and final:

(Unranked). Jason Hammel
The Big Screw-Up: Walk-off single to Sal Perez in 12th inning, AL Wild Card game.
WPA: 0.39
Candid Portrait:


We see the lanky Hammel calmly saunter into the dugout, but this angle, which does not capture his facial expression, could not have been a bigger tease.

7. Brian Matusz
The Big Screw-Up: Homer to Mike Moustakas in 10th inning, ALCS Game One.
WPA: 0.12
Candid Portrait:


Here, Matusz is somewhat kinda disappointed that he forgot his special pre-pitch routine of warming up his fingers. Ah, that’ll do it.

6. Tanner Roark
The Big Screw-Up: Go-ahead homer to Brandon Belt in 18th inning, NLDS Game Two.
WPA: 0.35
Candid Portrait:

Ho hum, nothing to see here. Just my next pitch, comin’ right up.

5. Kevin Jepsen
The Big Screw-Up: Go-ahead homer to Eric Hosmer in 11th inning, ALDS Game Two.
WPA: 0.43
Candid Portrait:


Jepsen’s defiant anger here makes it appear that Jepsen isn’t so much down on himself as much as he is irritated that the home run dare show up, an unwanted intruder in the middle of his ballgame. While this fiery attitude is probably a best-case scenario for a manager—fury is probably better than a collapsing self-esteem, here—it is not a best-case scenario in terms of human drama.

4. Pat Neshek
The Big Screw-Up: Go-ahead homer to Matt Kemp in eighth inning, NLDS Game Two.
WPA: 0.28
Candid Portrait:


What is far more endearing than even this, a goatee humbly peaking out from underneath a down-turned billcap, is the small “no” head-shake that Neshek gives to no one in particular, in the small moment between when Kemp hits the ball and it lands in the outfield bleachers. Watch it yourself:

3. Darren O’Day
The Big Screw-Up: Go-ahead homer to Alex Gordon in 10th inning, ALCS Game One.
WPA: 0.35
Candid Portraits:


A very poignant double-whammy from O’Day here. First the cap is slammed into the ground and then, after it has already been picked up, O’Day goes back to the ground to, I think, grab some dirt. I welcome this and any opportunity to see a professional athlete act like the rest of us, reduced to a gibbering mess after our misdeeds have mucked a situation up.

2. Joakim Soria
The Big Screw-Up: Go-ahead double to Delmon Young in 8th inning, ALDS Game Two.
WPA: 0.53
Candid Portrait:


Here, Soria regards his low moment with what appears to be perplexion. He is staring vacantly out to center field, whereas Young’s crucial double had just been lined to left. One plausible explanation is that he is keeping tabs on his old team, the Royals, and puzzling about the direction that the cosmos has taken him. This appearance came a day after Soria retired one of the five batters he faced, so there is also the question, asked in his eyes, of whether this sort of thing can actually become a routine, and what happens to a man’s soul if such a traumatic moment does begin to feel routine. Soria’s career regular-season ERA is 2.58. His career postseason ERA is 45.00.

1. Fernando Salas
The Big Screw-Up: Go-ahead homer to Mike Moustakas in 11th inning, ALDS Game One.
WPA: 0.35
Candid Portrait:

The deeper sting here is that, traded from current NLCS contestants the St. Louis Cardinals over the winter, this must have provided a vicious moment of clarity for Salas: “Ah, perhaps this is why they wanted to trade me?” After spending his October 2013 off of the Cardinals’ playoff roster, I’m not sure if it would be more painful for the man to watch the final rounds of the playoffs under those circumstances, or under these ones. It’s some real heavy stuff either way, to see the party that you weren’t invited to broadcast on national TV. One must feel a pang of sympathy as Salas immediately prepares the next baseball before Moustakas has even rounded the bases. This is pretty damn sad all the way around.

Thank you for reading

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If Drew Storen hadn't screwed up his ninth inning assignment, Tanner Roark wouldn't even show up in this article.
Joakim Soria is a dead ringer for Seth McFarlane in that photo.
Well, you have to forgive Mr. O'Day. He is a 32 year old relief pitcher coming up on his option year. Between this possibly being his last shot on a contending club, and the fact that he is not rich by baseball standards, he has as much pressure on him as anyone.