NINE HOURS FROM NOW
Joe Beimel loved moments like this. It was as if his perspective, his spirit, his very sense of self had become detached from his body. He could watch himself from afar - see the little muscle clenches, admire the gorgeous patterns his foot made dragging through the dirt - but the whole time, he was there, feeling everything from the sweat beading on his forehead to the tingle running down his spine. This, he knew, was the truest test of manhood: to wait in perfect stillness, to assert dominance through stoicism, knowing that at any moment he might be killed unexpectedly by a gunman in the stands, certain that each breath could be his last, and that if death came he would not blink. He puffed out his chest a little further. Truly, he was a paragon of masculinity.
The bullpen door opened.
"Yo," said Charlie Furbush, "Joe. The game ended thirty minutes ago."
ONE DAY FROM NOW
"Ow," said Taijuan Walker. "My shoulder."
ONE WEEK FROM NOW
Traded. He couldn't believe it.
Well, he could believe it - a solid month of rumors'll ingrain the concept into a guy's head - but it was still a shock to the system. One minute he was battling Brad Miller for a shortstop job, the next he was on a plane to New York and some dude named Rafael was taking his place in camp. Crazy. Crazy.
He'd tried so hard not to get on his iPhone and read the reaction pieces, but it had proven too great a temptation. First the phone was just on to read the supportive texts from friends and family. Then it was to call Brad and congratulate him on the well-earned starting gig. Then he was on a plane, with WiFi, and hours to kill, and...
USS Mariner loved it, of course. Seattle Sports Insider was wary. Lookout Landing liked the deal all right, but he fuckin' hated them anyways, so it was on to the smaller blogs. Then the comments. Then the tweets. Then the first half of Bull Durham on the fancy little TV in the back of the seat in front of him. Finally, right around the garterbelt montage, he switched it off - he'd seen this too many times.
He idly wondered if Bleacher Report had anything up yet.
He shuddered and switched Bull Durham back on.
Finally, thirty minutes before landing and an hour after Susan Sarandon had finished makin' out with Kevin Costner, he did it. He couldn't believe he was doing it, but he did it. He went to Bleacher Report. He flipped through a slideshow (as asinine as predicted), and scrolled down to the comments. The comments on Bleacher Report. He threw a couple furtive glances over his shoulder, just to make sure no one was watching.
He looked back. And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw it: a tiny, blinking ad in the bottom right of the screen. It looked as if it had been drawn by a two-year-old in MS Paint.
Hitting Coaches Hate This One Weird Trick...
What the hell, he thought.
He clicked it.
ONE MONTH FROM NOW
"I... I'm just not sure," said Robinson Cano. "It's different. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's better! But..."
On the other side of the phone, his father Jose sighed. "Robinson. You knew this might happen."
"I know, Pop." Robinson leaned forward in his chair, closed his eyes, and pressed the base of his palm hard against his forehead. "I know."
"Of course it wasn't going to be the same. You knew that. But you took the money anyways - in spite of what I told you, in spite of -"
"I know! But I didn't think - I didn't think it'd bug me this much, coming home to a ballpark with empty stands, losing more than we win, playing under a front office that can't... or won't..."
"Robinson," said Jose, in that way that always reminded his son of warmth and home cooking and black beans off the end of a bat. "Why are you calling me? What do you want me to do?"
Silence rang through the satellites.
ONE YEAR FROM NOW
When Helen's season tickets arrived in the mail, she didn't know quite how to feel. She almost hadn't renewed - childhood memories or no, financial times had been better, and she wasn't sure she could really afford to keep investing in bad baseball. Her husband had scoffed when he'd seen the box. He thought she was ludicrous and sentimental. Sometimes she agreed (usually when she was watching Justin Smoak fly out, or when she saw Willie Bloomquist's name on the giant center field TV she'd helped to finance).
On the other hand, there was hope. The offseason's moves had all been slight overpays - OK, maybe that was being generous when it came to James Shields - and Nick Franklin's monster 2014 in New York had made the previous winter's work look like an abject disaster, but... there was hope. Felix, Cano, Shields, Miller, Seager, Saunders, Iwakuma, and Paxton composed one hell of a core. Zunino, pitching-Montero and Ackley were still decent-with-upside. Hultzen and Walker were due back soon, and even without them (and with the most atrocious cast of supporting players since 2010) the team had won 83 games in 2014. There was a chance. And hey, the team looked great in spring training. She knew from Lookout Landing that spring training numbers mean nothing, but that didn't stop the hope. 2015 was gonna be the year.
It was gonna be the year.