OAKLAND, Calif. — As usual, Barry Zito stopped his SUV to sign autographs when he drove into the players' parking lot Sunday morning on the final day of the regular season.
It's what happened next for Oakland's star pitcher that was drastically different.
He packed his locker. He took pictures of teammates around the clubhouse. And after the Athletics beat Anaheim 3-2, Zito went home for the first early winter in his five big league seasons.
"I'm just trying to get acclimated to what's going on," Zito said. "It's kind of different. It's frustrating being in this position for the first time in my career."
It wasn't supposed to be this kind of day for the A's, heading home instead of the playoffs. They'd been to the postseason the past four years, losing in the first round each time.
The strange thing is, only a few hours later, the San Francisco Giants were suddenly dealing with the same scenario — though their hopes were dashed on the last day, one day after the A's.
Talk about a Bay Area bummer.
Both teams made the playoffs the past two seasons, and in 2000. The A's advanced in 2001, then the Giants fell six outs short of winning the World Series in 2002 before falling to Anaheim in seven games.
This marks the first time since 1999 that neither team reached the postseason.
There was a sign in the A's clubhouse reminding players to salute the fans after the game. They were handed travel checks for their trips home. Veteran utilityman Mark McLemore, who turns 40 on Monday and plans to retire, carried the lineup card to home plate in place of manager Ken Macha.
"With me, I'm extremely calm, cool and collected at times like that," McLemore said later. "When I get away from everybody else is when things like that hit me. What it will be like tomorrow I don't know."
Down in Southern California, a few Giants players watched the early part of the Rockies-Astros game on television in the clubhouse about two hours before San Francisco played the NL West-champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who clinched the division Saturday.
Once Houston beat Colorado 5-3, the Giants, too, were done. San Francisco finished the season with a 10-0 victory, but it didn't matter.
"We're getting dressed and going home," first baseman J.T. Snow said. "We wanted to go on and play some more, obviously, but the Dodgers played better than we did. They won the games when they counted, and they're moving on."
Barry Bonds saw the final score and packed up his stuff and left the dugout. Dustan Mohr came out to replace him in the bottom of the fourth. Manager Felipe Alou had said he'd remove some of his regulars if the team's fate had been decided.
Bonds finished the year with 45 homers, giving him 703 for his career and leaving him 11 shy of tying Babe Ruth for second all-time. Hank Aaron is first with 755. Bonds also walked 232 times.
"I played more games than I've ever played in my 40s, and it wore me down," said Bonds, probably headed for a record seventh NL MVP. "But we were still winning. My hitting or not hitting didn't have anything to do with what happened."