If you’re on Twitter, and you follow the appropriate beat writers (Divish, Dutton, Drayer, Johns), you’ll notice that Spring Training is in full bloom. Or, mostly full bloom, I guess. Pitchers and Catchers have reported and are already getting into their regularly scheduled bullpen sessions. The rest of the players are set to report today (if they haven’t already). We are T-Minus 1 week until the first Spring Training game of the 2016 season.
If the Mariners Fanfest was any indication, either there’s a lot of anticipation for this new Mariners season (and new Mariners regime), or a bunch of baseball fans were just happy to get out of the house for a weekend in late January. Either way, we’re about to be neck-deep in baseball coverage come March, followed by the long slog towards the post-season and eventually the next off-season, which should kick off at some point in 2025 (the baseball season is long, almost torturously long).
I don’t understand these baseball fans who complain that the offseason is too long. The last game of last season took place on November 1, 2015. The first game took place on April 5, 2015. That’s 211 out of 365 meaningful days of baseball. Tack on another month, and we’re talking about 242 out of 365 days of baseball. Go back another couple weeks for when pitchers & catchers report, and we’re up to around 255 days of baseball-like activities! Meaning there are only around 110 days, or not even 4 full months, of off-season. So, you know, if you somehow found yourself in mid-December “missing” baseball, you’re a God damn freak of nature and should probably be isolated from the rest of humanity.
Even if football wasn’t the greatest sport on the planet, you know why it’s so much better than baseball? If you take the regular season all the way through the Super Bowl, you’re talking about 161 days, or 5 months & change worth of meaningful football. Add on another month and a half for pre-season and training camp and you STILL don’t come close to the sheer calendar-suck that is the baseball season. Football … allows us to miss it. Absence makes the grow fonder and so on and so forth. Baseball is that clingy friend whose calls you accept only 33% of the time because you just don’t have the energy to listen to their bullshit on a daily basis.
So, no, my excitement level isn’t at the fever pitch it is for many other fans right now. While I don’t think there’s an appropriate amount of off-season time to just unwind and get away from things, I certainly wouldn’t want the season to start any sooner. I’ll be happy to have the next month-plus to slowly ramp up.
I feel like this is something I wrote about last year too, though I can’t seem to find it. At the very least, I shared a similar sentiment. That having been said, I’m trying to remember if my excitement level is higher this year relative to this point last year.
Recall, last year, we were coming off of a season where we fell 1 game short of the play-in game (or a play-in game to get to the play-in game, but that’s neither here nor there). And, to that team, we added a great hitter in Nelson Cruz, various other middling players who were hopeful upgrades to previous black holes, and we had some addition by subtraction in that we no longer were counting on the likes of Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. You had to figure that our offense would be improved, and our pitching would be just good enough, to get us over the hump. Then, Cano’s first half happened. And the bullpen fell apart. And Ackley still stunk. And the bench brought nothing to the table. And players like Zunino failed to develop. And we lost Paxton to injury again. And so on, and so on, and so on. The season fell apart pretty quickly. Two games under .500 in April, still two games under .500 through May, and off the cliff after that. With Houston running away from things early, and a bunch of other teams between us and a playoff berth, 2015 was yet another lost season in a decade full of ’em.
BUT, going into last year, expectations couldn’t have been higher.
And now it’s 2016. Coming off of a season where we were 10 games under .500, nowhere near playoff contention at any point. But, the GM was fired, and with that comes renewed hope. Lots of roster turnover breeds if not higher expectations, at least different expectations. With a focus away from right-handed power hitters, and towards guys who can get on base and put pressure on opposing teams, you’d THINK (in this age where small ball rules the day) the offense will be better. There will be less dependence on the middle of the order doing all the work. There will be less dependence on young players making the leap in their development. And, improved depth from 1-40 on the roster (granted, at the expense of our farm system, but who gives a shit how good our AA team is playing right now?) should hopefully mitigate a total collapse if some players get injured (which really isn’t a question of “if” but of “when” and “who”).
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I am more excited this year. And this team might not be any better than last year’s! But, it’ll be a different type of mediocre, if it is. With a real possibility of something great happening.
I know we go into every season saying, “Well, if this and this and this goes right, we have a chance to be in contention.” That’s nothing new, and it won’t stop as long as we’re all fans of this God-foresaken team. But, I like the idea of this team’s potential. I like veterans at the catcher position. I like the steady bat and on-base percentage of a guy like Lind at first base. I like the way our outfield is constructed for the first time in YEARS. And, I like the bounce-back potential of guys like Cano, and various pitchers. I mean, isn’t there a CHANCE that Paxton makes it through a full season at least once in his career? It’s not like he’s dealing with shoulder issues or elbow issues. He’s had some freaky shit land on him. Same goes for Iwakuma. Couldn’t these guys pull ONE healthy season with the rest of our more dependable starters? And, really, the bullpen is FULL of guys looking to have bounce-back years to save their careers. But, they’re veterans, and they’ve had success in the recent past. Little tweaks here and there will HOPEFULLY return them to some semblance of glory.
See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Starting to get more excited for baseball to get going already! I just have to keep talking myself into it. Talking myself into it. In a few weeks, I’ll get there. And, on April 8th, when we have our home opener, I’ll be right there in the stands, beer in hand, ready to roll.