Baseball is a funny game, as Joe Garagiola once wrote. Baseball fans sit around for two cold months before we begin to go mad with anticipation for the start of a new season. We have countdowns until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, guys who are just going down to stretch out their arms and toss a ball around. When that day comes, we have another countdown until exhibition games begin. Then, when that day finally arrives, we have another countdown until the holy day itself - Opening Day.*
Usually Spring Training is a time for hope, when every team has a chance to compete for the coveted holy grail. However, market disparities coupled with a few bad GMs, presidents, and owners have taken that hope and squashed it before pitchers and catchers even get on their planes to Florida and Arizona. It appears that the Lerners, Stan Kasten, and/or Leatherpants Vampire, in their failure to sign even one decent pitcher, have thrown this season in the garbage. But don't give up hope!
Remember last year when Mike "Irish" O'Connor,** a guy who hadn't been considered a high prospect, came in to replace Patterson and pitched decently, though his record doesn't reflect it, until his arm failed him? Who knows if there is another young arm that could rescue this team from the pit of despair? What about a fully healed Mike Hinckley finally fulfilling his potential? What about that Perez guy who came up in September and went 2-1 with an ERA of 3.86 in 21 innings pitched? Or Jerome Williams, who was good with the Giants? And heck, maybe even Patterson's arm will stay attached to his body.
Why do I feel such optimism? Perhaps it's today's sunshine or the excitement of having season tickets. Maybe it's a bit of residual excitement leftover from the magic of 2005. But more likely it is that I am desperately clinging to that irrational spring hope we as baseball fans are entitled to. In the end, does it really matter?*** We have baseball. We have sunny day games and hot dogs and roaring crowds and glowing fields and "Beer here!" and the crack of the bat.
*Though I watch the pre-Opening Day game on ESPN, I don't consider it Opening Day and would love to see it abolished and the Reds given their rightful place as the true opening team.
**Whom I like a lot after the Winter Caravan meeting.
***Yes, losing stinks.