These are the times that try sports fans’ souls…
Well, okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But honestly, this is the second-worst week of the year. The first, of course, begins the moment the third out is made in the last game of the World Series.
But this one, the one that began when pitchers and catchers started to report to their teams’ training camps, isn’t far behind.
Why? Because, despite what so many people on the Internet and assorted traditional media would have you believe, baseball is not back.
Yes, those who follow college baseball have a different perspective. Their seasons are already in progress. Those of us who don’t root for a college team have to wait.
The first pre-season game involving a major league team–the Arizona Diamondbacks facing the Arizona State University Sun Devils*–isn’t until Wednesday afternoon.
* Does anyone else find it as amusing as I do how heavily the Diamondbacks have stacked the deck in their own favor? Not only do they have the home field advantage, but ASU can’t even use their whole squad–they’re listed as sending a split squad, i.e. their backup players, even though they don’t have a Pac-12 game that day.
The first game available to those of us outside of Arizona and Florida isn’t until Thursday, when the Minnesota Twins host the University of Minnesota Gophers. It looks like the radio broadcast will be streamed through MLB.com (and, one presumes, the MLB app), but I don’t think the TV broadcast will be available anywhere but in Minnesota.
Friday, we’ll finally get the first games between major league clubs. There are fifteen on the schedule, and some of them will be televised outside of the teams’ respective markets.
It won’t be good baseball. The first exhibition games are always rough. Star players often don’t appear at all, and players never stay in for more than a couple of innings*.
But no matter how sloppy it turns out to be, it’ll still be baseball. In ballparks and on our TVs, radios, and other media consumption devices.
Almost all of the stories we’ll get between now and then, designed to convince us baseball is back, will be nonsense. Nobody cares who’s “in the best shape of his life.” Nobody really cares that Pitcher X, coming off of surgery, took the mound: we expect he did, and as long as he doesn’t re-injure himself, tossing a double-handful of pitches is irrelevant to our view of the world.
In a normal year, the free agent signings would be, by and large, over with by now; this year, for the most part, they’re not happening. Either way, it’s thin gruel to tide us over until Friday.
We’ll get there. As the saying goes, “Hang in there, Baby. Friday’s coming.*”
* I used to own a copy of that poster, back in the dim reaches of history. I’d love to get a new copy, but not at the prices they’re going for on eBay these days.
Not all of the current news is useless. We now know there won’t be a pitch clock in MLB this year–no promises for next year, though.
And, if you’re following the saga of the Athletics’ search for a new stadium, you’ll no doubt be interested to hear BART has definitively ruled out the possibility of building a new stadium near the team’s second choice location. That’s a bit of schadenfreude that’ll keep me entertained until at least Thursday morning.
But actual baseball? Still a few days away.