It’s a New Year, the Jets (and Giants, but really, why bother) are done, and – allegedly – 44 days remain until Pitchers and Catchers.
In other words, it’s Baseball Season!
44 days remain until pitchers and catchers begin congregating in Port St. Lucie. Maybe 30, or fewer, before the more diligent guys show up for infield drills.
Until then? Nothing. Blackness. A protracted exercise in patience and lack thereof. A seemingly endless slog of one day after another, each having only one thing in common: a colorless, almost painful lack of baseball.
Not that there’s nothing going on in the interim. It’s a somewhat comforting thought to know that between the exploits of Kristaps Porzingis, the seemingly disappearing tenacity of the Rangers (the Hockey Rangers, that is), and the weekly presentation of NFL playoffs which always seem to produce their fair share of heroes and villains, we’ve got our fair share of sports to keep us going until those first images of Spring in Port St. Lucie start filtering in.
And really, what is Spring Training itself? I love it as much as the next guy – there’s nothing wrong and everything right with finding a way to trick yourself into thinking it’s early summer in the middle of February. But nothing much happens during Spring Training, usually. Especially not during the early parts, where the most newsworthy items are, too often, which pitchers have chosen to grow or overtly alter their hair. The beginning of Spring Training isn’t official: this year, it will be marked, more likely than not, by a few blurry photos of David Wright arriving in Port St. Lucie.
This, the present, is the worst time of the year; there’s no denying it. The cold, the general gray atmosphere, and that abominable wind all combine to create just about the least baseball-friendly atmosphere anyone could imagine. Well, besides those numskulls who decided that early spring baseball in Denver and Minnesota was a good idea.
Yes, we’re making our way through the worst time of the year right now, but that’s actually not such a bad thing, because despite its being the worst time of the year, we are, in fact, making our way through it. Spring Training – and, as far as I’m concerned, Baseball Season – begins in 44 days. We spent 63 days, from August 2nd through the end of the regular season, in first place, and that passed more quickly than the time Hansel Robles takes between pitches. In 29 days, it will be February, also known as “The very same month during which Pitchers and Catchers report.” For 29 days, from October 4th to November 1st, we were the Postseason Mets. The 29 days of 2015 postseason was the best time I’ve ever had. The next 29 may be just about the worst. But just like the postseason did, this period will end.
And imagine this – the offseason, barring a truly Mets-opotamian fiasco, will end with less heartbreak than the World Series.
It’s a strange comparison to make – probably because it’s based on some kind of logical fallacy that I could find if I examined the argument more closely – but the point remains: there’s no risk during the offseason. There are few highs and few lows, and those few that do occur are rarely all too far in either direction. Finding out that Alejandro De Aza was as good a center fielder as we were going to get was a low point, but it wasn’t heartbreaking. Replacing Murph with Neil Walker wasn’t heartbreaking either, although I hope I didn’t just jinx Walker’s ability to keep our hearts, fragile from the loss of the World Series and our second baseman, intact.
So Spring Training will come, and although the things we see and hear out of Port St. Lucie won’t anything, Spring Training itself will mean very much indeed. It will mean an impending Spring, right around that proverbial corner. It will mean that baseball, first the Spring Training version and then the Regular Season, is just about to begin, or, at least, that it’s one step closer to beginning.
“Dad says the anticipation of having something is often more fun than actually having it,” said Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes in an early 1990s strip. “I think he’s crazy. I hate waiting for things. I like to have everything immediately.”
Asked for a counterargument, or anything that one would truly rather anticipate than have immediately, Hobbes can only respond with “Death comes to mind.”
But in this context, maybe Spring Training, and that glorious time that is regular season baseball, is in the same category. We can’t have it all year ‘round, for a multitude of reasons, and the offseason has seemingly found that magic length – the exact amount of time needed to build up anticipation, slip in a little desperation, and just when all seems lost, mercifully end. We’re approaching the halfway point, after which things will slip painfully slowly towards sun, warmth, and baseball, and once we reach that point, sometime in the next few weeks, we won’t look back. But even now, we’re far closer than it would seem. Spring Training will begin in 44 days, and we’ll look back on today like it was yesterday.
So let’s not drown in the boredom of the offseason, but rather, look ahead. Watch the highlights, read the columns, debate the merits, and consider the possibilities, but don’t do it with a mournful eye, yearning for a season that just ended and will not be back, but rather with an air of optimism. We’ve got a helluva team, and even if we don’t, we’ll be sure that we do, because we’re Mets fans, and we gotta believe. The interminable offseason will end just like the World Series ended. We were saddened – brokenhearted, even – when Wilmer struck out to end game five, but we were also proud. So let’s get through this pesky offseason, and as the Mets continue to play ball in a fashion that may not always be so absolutely bad-ass as the 2015 season was, let’s remember the pride. Let’s remember that we’re fans of people, not machines, and the reason that we’re Mets fans is that we care about not only the team on the field, but the guys who make up the team. Wilmer Flores may disappoint in 2016, but please, don’t forget that the thought of leaving this team once drove him to tears. Daniel Murphy will work against us as a National, but please, remember how hard he worked for us, practicing tirelessly until he became an almost average defensive second baseman. You know the drill. Wright may underwhelm. Harvey, deGrom, and Thor may not be the trio of awesomeness that they formed last year. But that’s the reward that awaits, when the offseason finally departs: our team will finally be back on the field, doing what they love, and we’ll be watching from the stands. And to me, that’s worth the anticipation of a few months and then some.
And while you’re at it, if you’re wondering just how long the wait really is until Pitchers and Catchers report, there’s no quicker way to check than the Shea Bridge Report official Spring Training Countdown, now available.