I’ve been really busy the last few weeks, and I haven’t been able to write my weekly column. So, I apologize or you’re welcome – depending on whether you like or dislike my work. A lot of you are probably thinking I was unavailable to write because I was interviewing for some of the various manager or general manager positions available in Major League Baseball because of my vast baseball knowledge or that I might be tied up with the NBA labor negotiations because of my intellect and problem-solving aptitude (though I just spent almost 60 seconds trying to type the word aptitude and it was still spelled wrong).
I was actually finishing up a humorous political documentary that I wrote and directed. But it’s all done now and you have my undivided attention. It’s been a while, so I hope I can remember how to do this.
In baseball, as in every sport, the entire season is a long, grueling experience that starts off with hope that slowly – or quickly – fades until each team and its fans realize that this will not be their year. All teams but one: the champs – this year it was the St. Louis Cardinals. Sports seasons are a lot like relationships. Well, not really that much but certainly enough to support my flimsy premise.
Obviously, different people have different motivations for being in relationships, but, ultimately, the championship is getting married. And in baseball, only one of the 30 teams wins the championship each year – every team starts off with the same record but only one team will “get married.” This 30 to 1 ratio for teams seems about right in terms of relationships as well – thereby making my premise slightly less flimsy.
Some teams have been married a bunch of times – the Yankees are the Larry King of teams with 27 World Series titles. Teams like the Padres and Astros have never gone all the way but they did make it to the altar. Who can forget the Marlins and their two surprise last-minute Vegas weddings? And it’s been over a hundred years for the Cubs, and now they’re like that really creepy friend everyone has who seems to only make inappropriate comments in the company of women – doing everything they can to mess things up before they even get started.
Following baseball has become a year-round activity for most fans. Once the World Series is over, everyone switches over to preparing for the next season. So, I want to give a little help to those of you who are new to offseason baseball, as well as those of you who aren’t new but who could use a little friendly encouragement.
Some might think there’s really no way to compare getting ready for the next baseball season and getting ready to start dating in pursuit of marriage. But I thought of this a couple weeks ago and I’m determined to make this work.
The first thing you must do after a season or a failed relationship is either chill or relax. It’s been a long season with an intense playoffs and 97 percent of all fans, players, teams and owners wound up being losers. And most relationships do end without marriage – not even counting one-night-stands or booty calls. But it all starts again in February, and it’s time to have a few “me” days. Get outside or read a book or take a cooking class. Baseball will be there when you come back. This applies to everyone – even the champs – because we are all going to need our energy for what lies ahead. Free agents, free-agent rumors, trades, trade rumors, new managers, new hitting coaches, new uniforms – yikes, see, I already started into it. Chillax.
Look in the rearview
Before you can move forward, you have to look back. Take a quick look back over the last season and try to browse the warning signs you may or may not have noticed along the way. Maybe you’re an Indians fan who got caught up in their hot start and thought for sure this was the year and this was the one you were going to marry and have kids and buy a house and you already bought the matching sweaters and then all at once you found out that she’s a stripper, already has two kids and has a pretty ferocious crystal meth addiction. It happens to all of us. But you have to learn from your mistakes.
Halfway through the season you should know whether the relationship is going to work out. And some teams looked like they really have a chance to get married and then something crazy happened – like with Boston and Atlanta, where their fiancée ran off with another dude, and the only thing she left you with is a crotch that itches all the time.
Don’t spend too much time on this step. It can drive one to drink pretty quick.
Count your blessings
Every team had at least some highlights last season. That’s what great about baseball – even the worst teams are going to win some games. So take a moment to reflect on that – let the positivity flow through you. Be thankful for your star players or your precocious manager or just that you have a team – not everyone can say that. If that’s still not making you feel better, then just be glad that you still have the use of both your arms (with apologies to those of you who don’t have the use of both your arms). Just remember that no matter how bad it is for you, some people are even worse off – soccer fans.
Do some recon
This is the first step where you should actually start looking toward the future. You’ve earned it and you’re ready. It’s time to start looking at what additions the team needs for next year to compete, and it’s time to start looking around for that special someone who can fill your heart and life with joy – and hopefully has a smokin’ bod. You can poke around all the 2012-related articles for your favorite team here on this site or maybe you can see what the team is up to in your local newspaper. Ha! Ha! Kidding, of course! Newspapers? Do those even still exist? Maybe you can also rent some movies on VHS while you’re at it.
Don’t get your hopes up
This is what got you in trouble last season. With baseball and with relationships, you have to be realistic. The next one could be the one. It probably isn’t. But the fact it could be is what keeps us all coming back for more, no matter if she treated you bad or he cheated on you or she stole all your money or he knocked up your sister – maybe the next one will be better and make all the previous nonsense worthwhile.
It’s important at this stage that you don’t get too attached to any one free agent or trade rumor. Just follow along at www.mlbtraderumors.com like the rest of us and see how this all plays out. Maybe you’ll get Prince Fielder on your team or maybe your team will trade for Joey Votto, but the chances are neither of those are going to happen. When you’re on that online dating site and there’s a really great guy or gal and it looks like you guys could really be a great match and this could all work out, just remember that they are on an online dating site and there’s probably something very broken about them.
You can’t get always what you want
This is a follow-up for the last step. There are 29 teams other than yours that want those top players and pitchers, as well. And there are thousands of other desperate chicks/dudes who all want that super-cool person who just happens to still be single at your age and there’s really nothing wrong with them. There’s always something wrong with them. That’s why they’re not married. So, you have to settle.
Yes, you can’t always get what you want. Also, you can’t always not get what you don’t want. You might want to read that last sentence again. I wrote it and had to read it three times to make sure it made some sense. (It does, right?) Anyway, most general managers are idiots. It almost seems like a qualification for the job. Maybe they aren’t idiots, but they all make idiot moves – even the “genius” guys. And maybe it’s the owner’s fault. It doesn’t matter. No team can escape these dumb player signings. The good news: Chances are one bad signing or trade isn’t going to make much of a difference, so you can ease down on the comment threads. Also, keep in mind, the chances are good no one really cares what you think about the players (or anything, really – but I wanted to be nice).
Pitchers and catchers report for all teams in mid-February, followed shortly by the rest of the players. That’s still a few months away and the days in between may seem to move as slow as a rainy school day. Spring training is a special time of year for baseball fans because it feels like everyone has a chance to win … except the Astros, of course. The teams haven’t yet had time to show their faults and cracks and blemishes and there’s a sense that this just might be the year when it all lines up.
And the same might be true of that guy or gal that you met at the Christmas party you weren’t really planning on going to but went anyway because your friend Michael insisted that you get out more often and open yourself up to meeting new people, but really it was because he’s basically a drunk and wanted to make sure he had a ride home.
Who knows? Maybe next year you’ll get the fairytale ending.