Juan Soto's ceiling, Gerrit Cole's mastery and other musings from October's road

CHICAGO -- It was Oct. 2, and fall had already settled over Chicago. The temperatures were in the 60s, the leaves had started to turn and crowds basked in the sidewalk cafés around the Loop, enjoying their last bit of al fresco dining before the coming freeze. Me? I headed for the airport with a suitcase I was soon to learn weighed 72 pounds. Excessive? Hardly. It was playoff time.

When I landed in Houston that day, the RealFeel temperatures were pushing triple digits. Over the next few weeks, I was in and out of Houston as the heat wave persisted and eventually relented to the coastal Texas version of fall.

I went to St. Petersburg, Florida, where walking the downtown sidewalks in the afternoon provided little evidence that a major event was in town. I went to New York, where it was chilly, rainy and pulsating at a level Chicago never quite reaches. I went to Washington, D.C., where a sterile new urbanist neighborhood is sprouting up around Nationals Park like an invasive species.

But always, it was back to Houston and Minute Maid Park, until finally, just over a week ago, it all came to an end when the Astros team I'd been trailing for 29 days succumbed to the Washington Nationals. By then the heat wave was a distant memory. Late that night, after Game 7 of the World Series, a cold wind blew over downtown Houston as I walked the well-worn path back to my hotel with the familiar backpack slung over my shoulders and my collar turned up to the chill.

Amid all the travels, there was baseball, and only baseball. It's really that simple. You go to games and write about them and their larger context. In the postseason, the storylines shift with every final score. You hardly have a chance to make sense of what happened before trying to figure out what it might mean for the next game or series. Teams get eliminated, and you bury them quickly and get back to the survivors, until there is only one. It's a whirlwind.

Now, after catching up on prep work for an offseason that starts whether or not you're ready for it, we can look back at everything that transpired in October and pick out a few things that stood out but didn't fall within the regular stream of our coverage. Here are some of these residual observations from the most grinding, demanding, unpredictable, trying, rewarding and magical month on the baseball calendar.