Well, we made it. This week, it's finally time for baseball. At first, I was going to write something really endearing about waiting through the long winter months only dreaming of the game under snow-induced house arrest. Something ridiculous that felt really good, even though I knew it would be borderline vomit-inducing. Something evoking this kind of thing:
Ahhh yeah. Goofy photoshop and baseball. The header image from some computer-illiterate guy's facebook page. That, or heck, one of these ones. You know, palm trees set against a massive sky, lit by a hidden sun, emerging from its six-month slumber. The players flattened by a wide-angle lens that brings sky and earth together in a single, unified tableau that echoes spring, spring, spring: (photo: David J. Phillip, AP)
My insides are tingling already. It's been too damn long. So when I pulled up the calendar to calculate just how long we have lived--nay, survived--without Major League Baseball, I saw this:
Well wait a minute. Three months? That's it? I love the sepia-toned offseason nostalgia for baseball in the abstract as much as anyone else, if not more, but three months really isn't as bad as I thought it was. I mean, just look at that calendar. That's a lot of red, and that's a lot of baseball. And it's not even that accurate, there are deals and meetings and rumors all filling those blank spaces in between--it might be true when they say there really isn't an offseason but I never really thought of it that way.
On Wednesday, February 12th, the Seattle Mariners will send some of their pitchers and catchers to the Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona to start throwing the first pitches that will wind up in a spreadsheet for Lloyd McClendon and Rick Waits to ponder over through September, and hopefully October. It will be another 15 days until they take the field with the rest of the squad to actually play competitive baseball, but when Bobby LaFromboise throws his first warmup pitch to Humberto Quintero at 9 am this Wednesday, it's on. Christmas Eve might often feel like a tired trope, but that's what this weekend feels like to me. Baseball Eve.
Now sure, you might say, it's been longer than three months for Mariners fans, who sat out the month of October watching the Pirates try and take their storybook year to a great ending. This is true. I even have to wonder how many Seattle sports fans actually spent these past months thinking about the gap between those red lines above--if such a gap even existed in their minds or if this franchise has caused some to only notice baseball when it happens to be in front of their faces, on television, in the paper, on the web. We've all read thousands of words about the past ten years and what they mean for the future of baseball in the Pacific Northwest, but you have to wonder how excited everyone really is about the arrival of 2014. Rogers Hornsby might have spent his winters staring out the window and waiting for spring, but we are gifted with a great team winning their sport's title, making the Mariners sound even more like a broken record than in the past. To some, those three months apart from Mariners baseball probably felt like three short ones.
But I'm excited for baseball. I'm always excited for baseball, though, so maybe I'm not the best representative for what I'm about to say next. I think you should be excited for baseball too. Not just that, I think you should be excited for 2014.
I'll spare you any platitudes about organizational direction, especially considering the most damning look at this front office came during this offseason and sure made abandoning the ship feel like a great option for a while there. I'll also spare you the look-at-how-much-this-organization-has-changed-since-last-year thing, because fuck yeah Robinson Cano but also change once brought us Mike Morse so...yeah. I'm not even sure we should try and read a narrative into Lloyd McClendon's public comments about the plan for this ballclub, as great as they sound. My stomach learned its lesson on that one after Don Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge.
Nah. Instead, I want to remind you that in three days the Mariners are going to start doing stuff beyond just swimming around in Nelson Cruz rumors. The Mariners are going to start doing actual tangible baseball things, things it seems they haven't done in years but have been separated by only three months. Here's what we have:
Wednesday: Pitchers and Catchers report
Monday, Feb 17: Full squad reports
Thursday, Feb 27: First game of Spring Training
Monday, March 31: First game of the season
The taste of the constant back-and-forth of articles about whatever the latest thing Jack Z said has soured quite a bit to many of us. It doesn't help, though, that there wasn't much else to talk about. This offseason saw big changes in the hierarchy of the Seattle Mariners. President. Manager. Free Agents. Coaches. Whether or not all this was just the latest shuffling of cards in a bad hand remains to be seen, but the reality is that the story of the 2013-14 Mariners offseason was Change, and that's what we have going into the first week of the season.
But when I say you should be excited about baseball, what I mean is this: You don't have to think about the front office anymore, if you want. You don't have to mistrust whatever latest crazy decision (Cruz?) they made, or remain level-headed and defend their rationale for replacing Danny Farquhar with a volatile $7 million dollar closer. You can, if you want. But you don't have to.
Because starting on Wednesday, these players that today do little more than add up numbers on a payroll sheet become real--lived, flesh and blood and working within the design that brought them all to a grass-filled field to perform for us in the first place. As they leave their offseason homes to start throwing and hitting and catching, we can choose to brake the anxiety Geoff Baker's piece drove us to and just watch the Mariners play baseball, because baseball is the fucking best. Whether or not it works is another question. But I'm ready for something new. Baseball Eve.
So like Dave used to say every spring, welcome back baseball. I've just about had it with you not being here for the past three months. Let's stick around until October this time, why don't we?