Albert Einstein once said that time is elastic. Alright, he might not have, but it seems like something he’d say, isn’t it? I get that feeling about this time of year, where the last few dozen hours before Opening Day seem to stretch and stretch until it feels as though the clock is moving backwards. It’s that "kid on Christmas Eve" combined with what is probably the feeling the morning of your wedding day, though probably with slightly less drinking and stomach aches. It’s excitement, it’s worry, it’s anticipation and exasperation. For being such a slow game, baseball can sure work you up sometimes.
I just hope irrationality doesn’t grip too hard this year, as it has in seasons past. I’ll be 30 years old by the time the Indians win the World Series this season which means I’ve got to give up childish things. Society seems to frown on the teenage years stretching an extra decade.
Realistically, I shouldn’t be totally unprepared for when Tyler Naquin demonstrates his over-his-headness by about April 20th, nor should I continue to assume that Miguel Cabrera will show the signs of age this season. Once he steps into Progressive Field he’ll reassume Galactus status and eat the world. I need to stay grounded, it’s healthy, can’t let baseball get too serious. We live in a modern society -- is it wrong to believe prayers to a small, bobble-headed voodoo totem really work? Some claim they don’t, but I have documentary proof that it does, just not for curveballs.
The worst part about the beginning of April is that quiet, aching worry that it’s all going to go to hell. I’m not even from Cleveland, I’ve only ever been there twice, but I like to think this is my adopted Clevelandness showing itself. As much of an undying optimist as I am, the spectre of exploding elbows, month-long slumps and just bad luck with how and when hits happen slides into the back of the mind sometimes. It doesn’t help that Opening Day, which in your mind is always a day of sunshine, soft breezes, and victory, is likely to be cloudy and chilly. Which is how it should be -- just because baseball is summer’s game, doesn't mean it gets to avoid the miseries of March weather poking its nose into the next month. We can just hope we get a bit of that on the other end of the season, and September and October are warmer than normal. It’s times like that I celebrate fossil fuels.
That’s the real trouble with baseball -- there’s so much of it, something is always bound to go wrong at some point. Everything has a better chance of happening. Sure, in football a few wrong bounces of the ball and your season is sunk. But baseball can just leave you scratching your head in confusion, like when a batted ball strikes a seagull in shallow center field and the winning run scores. Or a player misses a bus and doesn’t get to the stadium until the third inning. Or weird mound of dirt gets in the way of a grounder. It doesn’t ruin your season, but the way baseball is played all the time, it can sure ruin a couple days in a row of your week and leave you questioning how the universe works. Football can’t do that. Football just ruins Sundays.
I’m just looking forward to a distraction 162 times this year, three hours a day that becomes the heartbeat of the season. Something to occupy the dry times and soak up all my beer money. I’m looking forward to marvelous plays at short, weird batting stances from Jason Kipnis and ignoring Carlo Santana’s batting average. I’m certainly not looking forward to savage sliders from Chris Sale or Cabrera lurking on deck while JD Martinez or Victor Martinez or Justin Upton work a long, harrowing at-bat out of Cody Allen. But at the same time, isn’t that the most fun time? That moment when you see the peak of humanity’s ability facing off? Too often the bullpen makes it more of an adventure than it should be, but what’s the point of a game if it’s an easy decision? I’m not saying every time, but once, twice a week, get that adrenal gland cranking.
It’s almost here, we just have to suffer a few more empty hours and seeing the Royals receiving their World Series rings. But they can have their time. The new season means infinite chance for success or failure, joy and depression, and that’s the fun of it. A silly game that we dump too much of ourselves into. That makes me, at least, feel pretty good.
A musing, though not always amusing
I am honestly stunned that Trevor Bauer ended up in the bullpen, even with Francona’s love of Josh Tomlin and the farmboy breadth of Cody Anderson.I just assumed, quite wrongly it seems, that the kinks were ironed out this winter as Bauer refined his control. It appears he instead worked on increasing velocity and figuring out how to throw a curveball that bends arm side. Essentially a screwball without the elbow shredding. Hopefully the bullpen will give Bauer a chance to go through the Carrasco treatment and he’ll simplify everything, from the weird warm up to getting used to the stretch (though considering he walks a guy an inning it makes no sense for him not to be) and he’ll get into a better headspace and stop trying to paint with every pitch. Not everyone can be Rembrandt, as commercials pretend is a thing people say, but I’d rather he stop with the Picasso. Upside is too easy to root for, and we get to have the chance for a Bauer-venture every game now, so that’s a silver lining right there.