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New day, new faces, and that same old game

That yearly joy is back, let’s see what the new guys can do

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Cleveland Indians Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This has not felt like the typically interminable offseason. There are reasons for that — the fact that time has utterly flattened for various reasons, that I became a fan of European soccer to fill the hours, an increasing taste for the finer bourbons out there — but whatever it is, doesn’t it feel like last season just ended? If we’re going to call 2020 a season, anyway. Yes, it was baseball, and yes, Shane Bieber was brilliant as was José Ramírez.

Cleveland even made the postseason, for a second at least.

It was so brief though, a bizarre shadow of a memory. I didn’t even get a chance to get a little bit bored of baseball as I normally do some time in late August, then try to cram three games a day throughout September because I see the end coming up. It was like the idea of baseball, a nice free sample like we used to enjoy at Costco. It was the strangest season in recent memory, maybe ever. The long slog is back though. And I couldn’t be happier.

Not that it’s a return to normalcy, not by a longshot. The names that I think of when I think of the recent years of Cleveland baseball are all but dismantled. The only names still there from that World Series run are Ramírez, Roberto Pérez, and, bizarrely, Bryan Shaw. The guys that won 22 in a row are in different uniforms. Not that it’s a bad thing, not really.

I’ll think fondly of those teams, and be a bit sad that Francisco Lindor didn’t get a full 162 in front of fans for his final season. It felt like he was halfway out the door all last year anyway, and then suddenly, that was it, and he and our old friend Carlos Carrasco were in Flushing. I don’t want to dwell on that too much though, not now, because I feel good about this season, maybe too good about this team.

Drew Magary, formerly of Deadspin and now over at Defector, wrote a piece a couple weeks back that just talked about how we’re looking at the end of the misery of the last year. It’s not here yet, but it’s close, after a solid year of lockdowns and death on its way and almost reachable. Baseball coming back for the full run, with limited fans in the stands even, is a taste of that. Seeing Cleveland with this whole new slate of players, that’s a piece of that as well. It’s something we have to remember to be used to with this club, and those like it. Something we forgot about when everyone got good at the same time and they were the class of baseball. There’s a churn. As much as we loved Brantley and Kip and Carlos and that whole damn rotation, there’s a fun little energy, combined with a little hesitance, of meeting and getting to know these new guys as well.

It feels a bit like the first day of Kindergarten, doesn’t it? I’m excited to see Bieber try to beat his own record on Opening Day. I’m excited to watch Aaron Civale evolve and Zach Plesac prove last year wasn’t a fluke, and Emmanuel Clase or James Karinchak throw a ball through a wall. But I don’t know these guys yet, not really. I’ve got what, 90 games with Franmil Reyes? Even Bieber is a relative newbie in my eyes, despite the accolades we’ve already collected.

Some old friends are still here, anchors to hold onto until I catch on to the quirks and foibles that Josh Naylor will unveil and the magic that lies waiting to be shown in Andrés Giménez’s glove and panache in the field. I’m even looking forward to getting acquainted with Eddie Rosario’s impending massive slump. I want to enjoy these things. That will take time, though.

With any luck, by the All-Star break, I’ll be sunburned in the bleachers somewhere, and the madness and sadness of the previous year will be firmly in the rearview. We have a team we love to watch, and a handful of new guys we get to fall in love with, all over again. What’s old is new again, in some ways.

This feels more like a rebirth than a restart as in past years though, a new era of possibility and positivity. It might go wrong — what hasn’t the last couple years? It might not though. And that’s why we watch, right? To see what might be.