Ed: Please welcome Chase Howell to the Redleg Nation family. Chase will be posting occasionally here over the next few months (and maybe more), and we’re glad to have him.

It’s taken some time for me to work up the nerve to write this. The past few days I think I’ve gone through all the stages of mourning.

First, denial. It’s not over. 162 regular season games over five and half months, 97 wins through the good times and the bad. It can’t be over, not like this. It went so well, two games, no problem? No. It just…can’t.

Next, anger. Twenty-eight men left on base over the three home games? Catchers letting pitches by for extra bases? Errors? This has been a team with a .985 regular season fielding percentage, sixth best in MLB, and now a bobble when it counts? And why look at that strike, Ryan Hanigan, even if it was close? Swing! You have guys running! Make contact! Dusty, why not pitch Chapman two innings when he’s hot? So many things…makes me…so…mad.

Then came bargaining. If you do this again next year, Reds, I’ll quit being a fan. But, redeem yourselves, win it all, and I’ll forget it ever happened. If you stay out of my head for awhile and let me try to look forward to college basketball, I’ll forget the pain. At least, oh gods of baseball, let Todd Frazier win Rookie of the Year, and I won’t be so upset.

Depression, the worst stage of all, hit next. I was irritable to those around me. In a daze, I was brokenhearted. How could they do this. This was the team, the time, Cincinnati had waited so long. Was it bad luck? No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Brandon Phillips played great. Homer Bailey pitched as if he were Justin Verlander’s long-lost twin. But now, they have to start all over again.

Finally, as I painfully write this, acceptance. 2012, despite the ending, was a great season for the Cincinnati Reds. The city rallied behind the team, and they responded with win after win. Vying for the best record in baseball, stars like Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier emerged in the absence of seemingly irreplaceable Joey Votto. Mat Latos demonstrated his worth on the mound, while Aroldis Champan became a national story as a closer. Long-term deals were signed, with Votto and Phillips sticking around for years to come. Bailey finally arrived after years of waiting, and DatDudeBP once again showed that he is one of the most underrated players in the league.

A 2012 National League Central Division Champions pennant now hangs on the wall of my room, with space around it for the seasons to come.