Today, while researching stats for an article I was writing on DeMarcus Cousins, I found myself staring at the wall of the coffee shop I was working in. I had an itch that needed scratching.
I opened a tab and did a quick Google search. I grinned and opened my planner. Flipped through to February 14, and sloppily etched a few exclamation points. Underlined and circled them, just because.
February 14. When pitchers and catchers report.
The team I cover on a daily basis - the Golden State Warriors - is in the midst of an 11-game winning streak. They just welcomed in a player that gives them the most star-studded lineup in NBA history. They’re the prohibitive favorites to three-peat as champions, and playing near-flawless basketball.
Yet my wandering mind wanted to know when I could watch the San Francisco Giants again. The Giants who, in the last two and a half years, have accumulated 167 wins to 229 losses.
The Giants are pretty similar, at least in terms of the dudes strapping on stretchy pants, belts, and oddly-mundane cleats, to the teams that waded through mud for the past few years. The front office inspires more optimism than in prior campaigns, and, scanning through the roster, there’s at least one more Pomeranz than in recent years. But other than that, it’s more or less the same cereal in the bowl.
So why am I so excited for a team that will likely replicate a fledgling - attempting to fly, looking promising for a few moments, and then withering to the ground?
There are a lot of reasons (chief among them: I love baseball and I love the Giants), but I found myself gravitating towards a basic tenet of baseball that is antithetical to the sport I cover most of the time.
Baseball is, to quote a band you’ve probably never heard of, a long and winding road. On a game-by-game basis, a bad team looks no different than an average team looks no different than a good team.
Giancarlo Stanton will go 1-4 with two strikeouts, same as Mac Williamson. Clayton Kershaw will walk a handful of batters and get pulled after five innings, same as Derek Holland.
When Chris Stratton steps on the mound to face Bryce Harper, the most likely outcome is that Stratton will record an out. Watch the Giants for a game, or two, or five, and you won’t know how good or not good they are. Because baseball simply doesn’t abide by those timelines.
Assuming you, gentle reader, are more than three years old, and have thus graduated from five-piece puzzles, you understand that five pieces don’t tell you much about a puzzle. You need more. Those pieces could be anything!
And because no piece tells you much, you can’t help but just enjoy it for what it is: a borderline-irrelevant segment of the season. A 70-win season is like a hypothetical Steinbeck novel with too many chapters - each sentence and page is poetic and captivating on its own, even though, when placed together, they don’t quite work.
It allows us to suspend disbelief because, quite frankly, the game itself does so. It demands that we follow suit. This isn’t football, where one dismal player’s wet noodle of an arm hurls pigskins with the efficacy of a cat herding sheep, nor is it basketball, where one team’s ability to consistently execute is visibly superior to its opponent’s.
This is a game where Andrew Suárez can shut down a playoff opponent, and no one bats an eye; where Joe Panik can turn around on a fastball and put it over the fence when the star sluggers in the opposing dugout cannot. That’s baseball, they’ll tell you.
I’m ready for the blank canvas that every baseball season - and within it, every baseball game - presents. It’s cathartic, even after two and a half mostly-miserable years. Or perhaps because of two and a half mostly-miserable years.
February 14, everyone. Mark your calendars - baseball is coming.