The season has started. At least, that’s what MLB is saying. I’m having trouble believing them.
Not in a “The Mariners have the best record in baseball‽” way. (The complementary observation that “The As have the worst record in baseball!” has to be pleasant for fans of the Orioles and Royals: they now know it’ll be at least another week before their teams fall into the AL basement.*) Nor does it have anything to do with the games having been played in Japan in a stadium few of the players know. It doesn’t even have anything to do with my inability to watch those two games** because they’re played in the middle of the night***.
* Actually, since the MLB scoreboard sorts teams with the same record alphabetically by location, Baltimore is currently on top in the AL East. Not bad for a team that finished last year with a historically bad record. May this be a sign of things to come.)
** To be strictly accurate, I did manage to catch the radio broadcast of the last inning of the second game. Twelve innings stretched the game just long enough for me to hear the Ms break the tie.
*** Yeah, there’s a bit of East Coast envy happening. A 5:30 AM game would be a little easier to deal with than 2:30 AM.
I don’t get to watch the first few Mariners games in most seasons. For reasons known only to MLB’s schedulers, the As and Mariners often open the season against each other. Since I’m in the As’ broadcast territory, the games are blacked out on MLB.TV. Sure, I could watch the local broadcast on real TV, but how awkward and uncomfortable would that be, especially if the Mariners lost? So I content myself with radio–which isn’t blacked out–and wait for the second series of the year.
But I digress.
The truth is, an overseas Opening Series is just Too Damn Early.
There’s a rhythm to the seasons, whether you’re talking Earth-around-the-Sun or baseball. Shifting a few days, as has been done recently to keep the playoffs from running into November, is a little uncomfortable, but no worse than switching from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. You feel disoriented for a few hours–a day at most–but then your brain and body catch up.
But this year, MLB is trying to convince us that two games played a week and a half early are real. That’s more like a serious case of jet lag. The kind you get flying from, say, Arizona to Japan. It takes several days to get yourself back in sync with the rest of the world.
It’s nice that MLB wants to give us an opportunity to see what things are like from the players’ perspective. I suppose handing out VR headsets with a batter’s-perspective video of an Aroldis Chapman sinker* with every MLB.TV subscription would be prohibitively expensive.
* Or, to be fair, a pitcher’s perspective video of a Giancarlo Stanton comeback line drive.
It’s a well-known fact that some players need a longer spring training than others. Position players are generally ready before pitchers, even though the latter report to camp first.
But it’s also true that fans need a certain amount of time to be season-ready. We need to fine-tune our attention. Toughen up our throats and palms for maximum volume cheers and boos. And yes, even get a sufficient look at the minor league players who won’t be making the majors this year, but might feature prominently in our “Wait’ll next year!” fantasies.
So we’re a bit off center. Maybe next year MLB will give us that week and hold off the games that count until the last week of March or the first week of April.
As for this year, it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re not quite ready. Remember, there are millions of us in the same position.
Close your eyes, picture an outfield filled with summer sunlight. Think late September, a one game division lead, and the shade of Ernie Banks saying “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…Let’s play two!”
That’s the goal. We’ll get there.