Every Thanksgiving I spend time with family; typically extended relatives who live in California. It's truly enjoyable to catch up with family members who rarely make the trip back to the Midwest and see what's going on out west. It's enjoyable to learn what new things went on in their lives and rekindle relationships which go on ice for months at a time. People are what make life worth living: and breaking bread with them is among the best ways to find joy in the time we spend in this crazy world together.
Which leads me to think about what baseball fans cherish and discuss during the offseason and there are generally two kinds of discussions. One is hope for the future: seeing your team acquire new players who can hopefully lead to more joy in future seasons and create new memories. The second is reminiscing on the past and learning to appreciate past memories and then enshrine them: most notably in the Hall of Fame. So what can fans cherish in past memories? Here are a few things to consider:
Familiarity (via Longevity)
There is something to peak memories which stick in the mind (winning the World Series, Perfect Games, four home run games, etc), but there is also something to consistency which matters as well. Many of us may be fortunate enough to frequent a restaurant enough where the people just know what you're going to get before you open your mouth. This kind of consistency and familiarity brings its own kind of relaxation and joy. Baseball players are similar. Being a Clevelander: I personally cannot say I feel this as frequently as other fans do, but I can think of a couple of examples of this in baseball terms.
Kenny Lofton making a surprise return to Cleveland in 2007 is one of them. Everyone in Cleveland knew Lofton. They knew his smile, his batting stance, his heroics on the base paths and his fabulous glove. Him returning to Jacob's Field after a six year hiatus was a pure joy of familiarity and excitement: here was the past returning to Cleveland to help the present. The exciting thing was Lofton did help in exciting ways too! Lofton returned and while he no longer patrolled center field (Grady Sizemore reigned in center in what seemed like it would be a new love relationship between fan and player), he stabilized a corner outfield position for Cleveland and provided some crucial postseason hits against New York.
Another was when Jim Thome returned to Cleveland, after leaving us for a lengthier period of time, and while Thome could not drag Cleveland on his back to the postseason: it was still an opportunity to bring some goodwill with the fans (well, for most). Thome homering in his return to Cleveland was a joy to experience, even if it only hinted at his past glories.
Outside of Cleveland, there was something to watching Mariano Rivera (for instance) being a singular and eternal presence in the back of New York's bullpen which fills you with awe and dread. Knowing what was coming, year after year, was awe inspiring but also in some ways exciting. Same with Miguel Cabrera who, even today, tends to torture Cleveland in his baseball dotage. exhilarating
Exhilaration (via Grandiose Moments)
The next is the experience of exhilaration. The most exhilarating moment, I think, for Clevelanders recently was Rajai Davis tying Game 7 of the World Series. Davis' homer is probably the 2nd most famous and thrilling home run for a losing effort in the World Series of all time (the most exciting likely being Fisk's homer to force a Game 7). But other examples abound: Jay Bruce walking off a win for 22 in a row, Corey Kluber pitching a Maddux, Roberto Perez smacking two home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, Jason Giambi walking it off, there are plenty of other examples.
I firmly believe the goal of each franchise is to win a World Series, as Billy Beane says being the last winner. This quest is simply a continuous search to experience an ultimate moment of exhilaration as a fan (and obviously for the players as well). As such, those who assist in achieving this goal become part of the memory, part of that exhilaration which I know many feel strongly for their entire lives.
I also firmly believe full seasons can provide their own exhilarating feeling, but in a different way. If grandiose moments are a rush, seeing greatness is more of an awe. Corey Kluber's 2017 season, for me at least, was the most exhilarating individual season I have watched from an Indian. Shane Bieber's 2020 is not quite there for me, but not too far behind. There must be something similar for Angels fans watching Mike Trout (who I, at least, do not have the pleasure of watching daily). Or for Tigers fans witnessing Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown.
Jose Ramirez provides a consistency of greatness we've had the pleasure of witnessing every year from 2016 to now. Lindor provided similar greatness over that time, and others have in Cleveland as well.
Be Thankful Today
As fans we should all be thankful to be blessed to live and watch a franchise in our home town. There is much to be thankful for as Cleveland fans, and hopefully we will get to experience much excitement and joy in 2022. For me personally I am thankful I get to review and reminisce about the past again this offseason and wonder about where it falls in our collective memory.
Have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving holiday everyone.