Breaking Balls: Hot starts lead to broken hearts

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Surprise fast-starts always wind up breaking some fans' hearts.
Surprise fast-starts always wind up breaking some fans’ hearts.

Hey, do you guys even remember me? My name is Jed Rigney and I’m the founder and president of the “Breaking Balls” column here on Through The Fence Baseball. I have been quite remiss this season and haven’t written anything about the great sport of baseball.

But all of that is about to change because in just a matter of moments you will begin to read words on your screen that I have written that have a lot to do with the 2013 Major League Baseball season.

Before we get into all that deliciousness, I want to talk briefly about you, the reader. I’m worried about you. Yes, you. It’s time for some real talk. It’s okay, this is a safe space and no one else will know – writer/reader confidentiality.

I’m concerned because you are obviously holding a lot of anguish and turmoil inside, and I fear for what could result from that. I say “obviously” because I know that you, dear reader, have not reached out to me or to this website to address the fact that you have been suffering from an absence of my writing – nor have any of your fellow readers, or anyone anywhere, not even my family who are obligated by blood to be interested in my writings.

No, no, no! This is about you. Don’t deflect with silly thoughts like “You’re writing isn’t really that good” or “I was enjoying your time away” or “Jed who? I thought this was a baseball prospects column.”

Look, it’s not your fault. Do you hear (read) me? It’s not your fault! I’ve been busy, and I can assure you that my thoughts have always been tethered to you, dear reader, and to your near-addiction level enjoyment of my baseball observations and musings.

Since mid-March, I have been tied up with directing a comedy film in San Francisco called “Nowhere Girl” – yeah, an honest-to-God movie show. Then as soon as that was done, I was off to Chattanooga to film a web series called “Glamour Goes South” – and while I know very little about glamour, I know a lot about things going south.

But enough about me, let’s talk some baseball and begin your healing process.

Last season I did a whole season preview correlating all the teams to the different Real Housewives franchises and individual housewives. I know, it was pretty amazing. This season I was trying to think of a really clever way to present my preseason ramblings.

Maybe I could compare teams to superheroes. But then there is no Superman in the league this season – though Houston is clearly the Aquaman. Or what about comparing teams to world leaders past and present? But the baseball-fan/history-nut market is pretty small – besides, regardless of the historical accuracy, there’s no way my editor would let me refer to Jeffrey Loria as Adolf Hitler. [Editor’s Note: You’re pushing it, Jed.]

In spring training, I did that Lord of the Rings column about fantasy baseball that was enjoyed by tens of you, so I couldn’t use that. Then I thought the X-Men would be a good idea because there is no one X-Man that is perfect and all have varying levels of flaws. But it’s already May, so a preseason preview is going to have to wait for next year. Can you do me a favor and send me an email around February of next year to remind me? Thanks.

All right, so how are you doing now? I know I haven’t really written anything actually about baseball yet, but at the very least you have been able to see many of my fancy word formations, and that’s the first step.

One thing in baseball that I always find fascinating is how teams start the season and the effect that has on fans of teams. If a good team starts well or a bad team starts poorly, no one really cares and there’s a boredom or apathy, respectively, that settles in.

However, when a bad team shoots out to first place or when a good team starts off like crap, that’s when things get fun as a fan of baseball. This is true in all sports but more so in baseball since the entire sport hinges on the unpredictability of teams, players, games and even individual pitches.

Another area of human endeavor slathered in randomness: relationships. There are so many ways a pairing of two humans can blow up – personal interests, physical attraction, family, friends, money, career, location, etc. So, when you actually see a relationship work, you kind of need to tip your hat to them – though no one really wears hats anymore – well, except for douchebags who wear those stupid fedoras.

So far this season, there have been some very surprising records that were unexpected by most rational people. Historically, hot starts don’t really mean the team will do anything special because the season is 162 games long, and for everything that’s gone right, there are so many things that can still go wrong.

What I want to do is take a look at the teams off to unexpected hot starts and outperforming everyone’s expectations. And then I’m going to compare each one to a relationship I had that also got off to a hot start. Spoiler alert: They all ended badly.

(Note: All girl’s names have been changed, but they all know who they are.)

Breaking Balls couple #1 -- broken heart
Why does it hurt so much, Kansas City?

Kansas City Royals

What a pleasant surprise the Royals have been! They’re in first place when most people figured they’d be in last – or second-to-last. They’ve been a bit lucky, but they do have talent here. When I was entering my twenties, I started dating a lovely girl named Tiffany. She was tall and beautiful, and I didn’t have to pretend to like the things she liked because we both liked the same music and movies and so on.

The one thing she liked, that I wasn’t a fan of, was her ex-boyfriend. No matter how great I felt our relationship was, when she’d get in touch with him for any reason, we would break up within a day. And this kept happening. I think we broke up six times. And when we’d get back together, her ex was never permanently out of the picture.

In this scenario with Kansas City, let’s say the ex-boyfriend is the Detroit Tigers. They’re right there. So close. Too close. And it seems like only a matter of time before the Royals fall for it all again and the relationship sinks like a stone.

Breaking Balls breakup couple #2
Pittsburgh, you make me so angry!

Pittsburgh Pirates

Of all the better-than-expected hot starts, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the team we all hope can find a way to keep it going. They haven’t had a winning season in over 20 years and can you even imagine what kind of suffering that is? I also think we all know that of all the teams off to a better start than expected, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the ones who are least likely to keep it going. I mean, the odds are just stacked against them.

Speaking of “stacked” – I was in a relationship with a girl named Naomi who had huge breasts. I was going to skirt around using that word, but we’re all adults here and it’s time we started acting like it. Just like the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, Naomi and I were also destined to fail. Yes, she was really cute and she was supportive in a way that I hadn’t experienced. But she also seemed to be unclear about what to do in life or how to go about doing it. And she lived out of town … with her ex-boyfriend.

Yeah, I know! I was just as surprised as you! I felt like this was something she should have explained at some point earlier in the relationship. So, the fatal flaw wasn’t just that she was living with him, but that she waited so long to tell me. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ fatal flaw is a general lack of talent and a manager who seems to be unclear about what to do in a game or how to go about winning it.

Breaking Balls breakup couple #3
That’s right, Boston, leave me wondering what might have been.

Boston Red Sox

As a Red Sox fan, this is the hardest one for me to criticize. Boston is off to a great start and leading the division. Pretty much every facet of their game seems to be working. I picked them to win the division, but that was mostly a combination of being a fan and not being very impressed with the other teams in the division. Of all these teams, they look like the most likely to carry it through to the end. But if you look closer, it’s not very promising.

I was in a relationship with Ellen for a little more than four years. When we first met, she couldn’t have been less interested in me. But I won her over eventually – for which I like to credit my charming personality and handsome looks even though I know it was mainly her boredom with whatever else was going on in her life that “threw” us together. Yep, four years. And when we were in public, we could put on a pretty good show, but when no one else was around it was clear that the relationship should have ended after a year.

Okay, now I’m lost. There’s a connection to baseball here somewhere. Look, I’m sorry! It’s been a while since I’ve written a column, and it’s not as easy as you think.

Oh! Speaking of “easy as you think” – one of the more troubling aspects of our relationship was Ellen’s wandering eye. That was huge. But there were a lot of other little things that when you looked closer, it was easy to see how weak everything actually was. And that’s the 2013 Boston Red Sox.

Breaking Balls breakup couple #4
Colorado, why in the name of Jim Tracy do you do this to me?

Colorado Rockies

Hey, world, the Colorado Rockies are in first place! Even with God himself trying to squash their season with snow in May, this team just keeps winning games. They fired Jim Tracy last year and now Walt Weiss is managing the team. This is just how the Rockies do business. They have a crappy manager who drags the team through the mud, they fire him and the team takes off like a shot.

It worked a couple years ago when they fired Clint Hurdle (sorry, Pirates fans) and even Jim Tracy couldn’t slow down the Clint-less team. Sometimes just getting rid of one person can suddenly make everything work.

I started dating Penelope in 2006 and we were texting and emailing and calling and spending all of our free time together – we couldn’t get enough of each other. And within a few months were both pretty certain that we were going to end up getting married and we started making plans to move in. But there was that one person around who was dragging us down and who eventually took it upon themselves to make sure our relationship would end. Classic Jim Tracy move.

Like the Rockies this season, Penelope and I had all the right pieces in place to make everything work and any shortcomings seemed easily surmountable. And there was very little reason for us to think anything other than our relationship would just keep going. But then there was our “Jim Tracy” and it all fell apart in very short order. The questions for Colorado: Just how short are the shortcomings, and can Walt Weiss deal with them? My guess is they go full-blown Penelope, break up by email and disappear out of my life forever … um … I mean, disappear from the playoff race.

There is hope!

I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom. It doesn’t have to “go south” (get it? I’m referencing the web series I’m working on. Oh, never mind!) Anyway, sometimes a relationship gets off to hot start and things are going fast and no one thinks it’ll last and it’s all just so crazy, but then it just keeps working.

I met my wife in 2010 and we got married in 2010. That’s a “hot start” if ever there was one. Now it’s 2013, and we’re still very happy and still very married. And you wouldn’t believe the hurdles we’ve had to overcome (career, family, friends, locations) to make our relationship work and to prove wrong all the doubters – of which there were many.

For these teams off to hot starts, yes, it’s just one month and these things do have a way of balancing out over the course of a full season with a winning streak or losing streak here and there. But who knows?

One of these teams could prove us all wrong and be the one that goes all the way. And then that’ll show ’em. That’ll show ’em all.

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