The Emptiest Day of the Baseball Season

It happens every year. The World Series ends, forcing me to endure a year of hearing these guys, or those guys, or, worst of all, that team again referred to as World Champions. I put that aside and start the countdown. There are some distractions of course. Football and hockey and off-season moves and debates about whether Fearsome Hitter or Guy That Just Knew How To Win belong in the Hall of Fame (they don’t). But really the only thing that matters is this: how many days until Opening Day?

Football ends, and then we get serious. Pitchers and catchers report. Optimism abounds. Pitcher has been working on New Pitch over the off-season. Player shows up to camp In The Best Shape Of His Life. Games featuring minor league guy are played. Slowly, the regulars play deeper and deeper into games. You know it’s right around the corner when there’s speculation that Journeyman Relief Pitcher might play a key role in the bullpen because he’s given up one run in five innings of Grapefruit League ball. A couple of real games are played in the middle of the night. Teams stop playing each other and start playing younger versions of themselves. The first game in New Stadium gets the attention for one day, and then it’s here.

Opening Day.

The bunting is up. Aces are warming up in the pen. The starters line up along the baselines. Play ball.

Happy New Year.

Ace is back from injury, and pitches a solid five. Remaining Star drives in New Guy to take the lead. Revamped Bullpen brings locks down the victory. Taking care of business. Undefeated. First place. Tied at least. Everything is right in the world. Except . . . Except . . .

THEY DON’T PLAY TOMORROW! After all the waiting, after all the build up, after all the predicting, it’s all a tease. They play on Opening Day and then they have a scheduled day off. And just like that, it’s winter again.

2011 Major League Baseball Postseason Cheering Guide

When none of my teams make the playoffs, part of me dies inside. Nonetheless, there’s still baseball to be played, and some outcomes are better than others. Here are the eight MLB playoff teams in descending order of how terrible it will be if they win the World Series.

8) New York Yankees – The thought of millions of Yankees fans being happy about anything makes me ill. It’s bad enough that they think that Derek Jeter is better than Alex Rodriguez.
8a) Philadelphia Phillies – The thought of Jimmy Rollins being happy about anything makes me ill. It’s bad enough that he thinks he’s anywhere near as good as Jose Reyes.
6) Texas Rangers – Owning the Rangers and using this power to swindle a new stadium from the citizens started George W. Bush’s ascent to the presidency. Never forget.
5) St. Louis Cardinals – They did knock the Braves out of the playoff picture, which moves them up a notch, but they’ve already won a championship with a bad team once in my lifetime. Manager Tony LaRussa is annoying, a drunk driver, and a Tea Partier.
4) Arizona Diamondbacks – The most nondescript team in the playoffs puts them in the middle of the pack. They have one good player (Justin Upton) and a couple of good pitchers, but nobody really knows how they won games. The NL West is just that bad.
3) Tampa Bay Rays – Tampa’s improbable playoff run coupled with the Red Sox meltdown was a beautiful gift. The Rays are the model of how to run a low payroll team. Finally, their small fanbase 3000 miles away will be nearly silent to my ears.
2) Milwaukee Brewers – I’ll root for any non-Favre containing team from Wisconsin against any team that I don’t care about.
1) Detroit Tigers – This is my team-in-law, which pushes them above Milwaukee, but they’d be a strong contender regardless. Beautiful uniforms. The great Justin Verlander. And when in doubt, always root for the declining midwestern town.