Not sure if you heard, baseball played in earnest returns today.
But amid all the excitement about Opening Day (purposefully capitalized) many baseball fans have a tendency to see the trees and not the forest as the season progresses, usually sooner rather than later. Actually, so does most of the media covering the sport – which is precisely why I started this blog last season.
It’s easy to get caught in the hoopla. This winter was llooooonnnngggg, last season was one of the more exciting ones in memory (in the discussion with ’96 as one of the most fun in my lifetime), and this one is looking just as entertaining on numerous levels.
But before you jump through the roof when Giancarlo Stanton hits his first homer as a Yankee 475ft, and before you forcefully punch the air after Aroldis Chapman throws a 100mph fastball past a Blue Jay to seal the game…
Remember: it’s a long season. Enjoy the moment, embrace the reality.
One of the many things we all love about baseball is the length of the season. It’s there pretty much every day for the next seven months.
It’s impossible for a player to hide over 162 games. In basketball, the last guy on the bench may never be seen outside of his oversized warmups. Not true in baseball – that guy is going to get on the field and probably in an important spot.
It’s impossible for a team to hide over 162 games. In football, a forgiving schedule and a few lucky breaks can put crappy team in the playoffs. Not in baseball. 162 is >>>> than 16.
Embrace the long haul. Embrace the process. Embrace the percentages. Things generally work out.
Why am I reminding you of something of which you are certainly aware?
Because at some point this season, many of us forget the above. 5 losses in 6 games will get our batting gloves in a bunch. 3 blown saves in 4 outings from our best reliever will have us snapping at our kids. A 1 for 23 slump from a corner outfielder will have us padding the bank account of the local brewery.
So when those things happen this season, and Michael Kay, Jack Curry and the other pseudo-intellectuals on Simpleton Summer Camp TV tell you how “concerning” – yes, they’ll say “concerning” instead of “disconcerting”, intellectuals that they are – (deep breath) those slumps are, do…not…fall…for…it.
Players are not robots. Guys who hit 30 home runs don’t hit five per month. Pitchers with a 3 ERA don’t give up 3 runs every nine innings.
The irony here is that the very people who are adverse to statistics and probabilities are usually the same ones who forget this. The “don’t forget the heartbeat/human element/gut/it’s not all numbers!” crowd are typically the ones who expect players to act like robots.
Not everybody is Mariano Rivera. Aroldis Chapman will struggle during parts of this season just as he did last season.
Not everybody is Johnny Bench. Gary Sanchez will struggle at points this season just like he did last season.
Conversely, when an average player plays like a Hall of Famer for 6 weeks, there’s no need to think he’s one of the best in baseball at his position. It’s exponentially more likely that a crash return to the reality of dime a dozen is coming. See also; Castro, Starlin, 2017.
Let loose today. Go ahead and get emotional. Anyone who watches a game with me knows I do. Send your comforting thoughts to my wife, for she is a tolerant and patient woman.
First pitch, 3:37 pm today in Toronto. Here’s to the last pitch ending in the Canyon of heroes in November with a lot of tape.