I know the media is looking at the negative. I know every one is talking about the size of Barry Bonds' head, I know they are looking at the Diamondbacks' offseason pickups and wondering how they spent so much on so little, I know they are talking about how Major League Baseball can't afford another scandal.
But let's be honest, this is the best time of the year isn't it?
If you love sports, then you absolutely have to love the month of March. March Madness, the NBA, even the NFL is still there (memo to Mr. Parcells, Drew Bledsoe is OLD).
But really, it is all about baseball. It is all about fresh cut grass, overpriced beer, sun burns and socializing. Everybody's equal, everybody's got a chance. You're a Royals fan? You're still in the race. You're a Yankees fan? I'm sorry. If you're a Diamondbacks, White Sox, or Rockies fan, Tucson is the center of the universe for the next month. Everybody's got questions, and finally, for the first time in what seems to be forever, those questions actually have something to do with the game itself.
These are the questions that matter now. Not who's on the juice, not what the Grand Jury Testimony really revealed. Yes, steroids will hang over this season, and many more to come, but it's different now. I woke up yesterday and turned on ESPN. There was baseball. I know the pitchers are going one inning, I know the lineups aren't set, and I know the rosters are 80 deep, but it was big league baseball.
I love this game, I love it so much that I came back after the strike. I love it so much that my favorite team hasn't won a World Series in nearly 100 years, and all I can think about is that Boston broke their curse, '05 has to be the Cubs year, right? I love it so much that I will argue until the wee hours of the morning that Ted Williams was the greatest of all time, and I will wake up the next day convinced that it was time well spent.
I love the game. I love the commercials. I miss the warm timbre of Vin Scully's voice. I miss the insight of Joe Morgan, I miss the homerism of Mark Grace, I miss learning something about a game I have watched and played since I was four years old.
There's a Nike commercial running right now. Albert Pujols and Mariano Rivera are featured along with several football players. The music is dramatic, the masks are more so, but there's one shot, of Pujols just swing his bat back and forth before he comes set into the hitting position. It's poetry. Just the bat, swinging back and forth. There's perfection in baseball, literally as we saw from Randy Johnson last season, and metaphorically. David Wells' windup, Ken Griffey Jr's swing, the way Derek Jeter slides across the bag. Tori Hunter going over the wall to take one away.
It's magical, and the beauty of baseball is that it will happen to every team, many times over, this season. Wins and losses are for the unimaginative. There will be spectacular plays, incredible pitches, dominating performances produced by players on every club this season, the Diamondbacks included. Who will they be?
Will it be a Javier Vazquez fastball painting the black? A Shawn Green rocket into the pool? Will it be Jose Cruz turning a run scoring double into a WebGem or a 6-4-3 double play? Will it be all of those, or will it be something we've never seen before? I hope it is all of those things and more. I hope it is a division race that comes down to the final day, the final out. I hope it is a sacrifice bunt that puts a runner in scoring position, I hope it is a rookie stepping up in crunch time. I hope it is a double steal, I hope it is a lefty lefty matchup. I hope it is a fastball pitcher against a fastball hitter with a 3-2 count.
I'm going to come out and thank the players, the owners, the Commissioner, and those in his office. I know there are problems in baseball, but they just seem to fade away when these men cross the lines. For three (sometimes four) hours all the problems fade. We identify new ones during the game (middle relief, clutch hitting), and in an instant they are gone (a big strikeout, a sacrifice fly). We cheer, we boo, we harass umpires and opposing players. We recognize the greats for what they brought to the game and what they brought to our society and most importantly for what they brought to our lives. For time spent with mothers and fathers, for bonds forged with friends. For tears shed out of joy, frustration, and pain.
What am I thanking them for? I'm thanking them for being here, I'm thanking them for caring. I don't care if they play for a love of the game, or for a paycheck, or for the girls or the fame. They all want to do their best, and they all will do their best, no matter what their reasons. The best in the world playing the greatest game in the world.
I love March.
Email James Renwick at FutureBacks@cox.net