It’s almost that time of the year again. The birds are starting to chirp, the ground is beginning to thaw, and Art is stocking up on BBQ sunflower seeds. That’s right ladies and germs, it’s baseball season. The teams have all reported to their respective spring training locations and it’s only a short time until opening day is here.
To be totally honest with you, this is absolutely my favorite time of the year. Baseball means winter is almost over. Baseball means sitting outside in a tank top and my sunning shorts while watching the game and drinking a beer. Baseball means throwing in a chaw of Levi Garrett and grilling up big ass sausages, kabobs, and burgers. It’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness all wound up in a piece of leather and hurled 106 mph (e.g. Aroldis Chapman) towards a batter who wants nothing more than to hit it to the fucking moon. It’s America.
The thing is, most of us here at swayzesghost have watched a team that has been absolutely terrible since we were old enough to watch, and I still absolutely loved this time of year. Baseball is more than just whether or not your team is at the top of the standings (which they are now, so suck it La Russa), it’s about ballpark nachos and watching wacky mascot races. At the end of the day, whether your team wins or loses, you still spend a day at the a park and get an awesome tan line.
I was totally content year in and year out watching a team underachieve their way to a 60
to 70 win season because I just really loved everything else that came with it. But something feels different this year. I’m anxious about the season; there is a weird feeling in my stomach when I see baseball tonight come on. For the first time since I can remember not only are we fielding a very promising, young, and talented squad; we’re favorites to win the division and make a run in the playoffs. Combine that with the fact that the Cardinals arms are falling off and the rest of the division sucks and I’m left with just some weird feeling eating at me. For the first time since I can really remember I have actual, legitimate expectations for the Cincinnati Reds. The team that started it all, fielded the Big Red Machine, and gave me the opportunity to watch Neon Deion Sanders play baseball, actually have me excited for baseball for reasons other I just love baseball.
The Reds have potentially one of the most legit and nasty pitching rosters that I have ever seen. If they can pull it together and live up to half of what they are capable of then we have a rotation that’s totally solid from top to bottom. We have a
pretty good MVP first baseman in Joey Votto and a third baseman (forget the fact he’s 78 years old) who has become a leader as influential as Chet Steadman in Rookie of the Year. When you piece it all together you have a team that’s built to not only make a run this year, but has the building blocks to be truly successful for years to come. So yeah, I am looking at this year a bit differently. Each loss might sting a little bit more and each win will probably be a bit more sweet, because if we don’t go 162-0, this season is total bullshit.
Of course more than just the Reds winning this season, I’m equally excited to watch the Cards and Cubs struggle. Fuck both of them. The Cards are about to either blow their entire bank on Pujols who is 31 (yeah, and Danny Almonte was 13) and then can’t afford another single player, OR they have to watch the most dominant player in baseball (not named Joe Votto) walk right into the Cubs hands. They also lost their best pitcher and Cy Young runner-up to Tommy John for the year and had their second best pitcher say he would entertain trade talks. That’s a shame.
Hypothetical Scenario #1 – The Cards sign Pujols to a 10 year contract which makes him the highest paid player in all of sports. Over the next couple years, the team is totally handcuffed to that contract and Christ Carpenter and Hi, May! Garcia walk away because they will be forced to take salary cuts. Wainwrights arm never fully heals and the new ace of the club becomes Kyle Loshe. Pujols’ numbers steadily decline because the man is already like 34 years old and steroids are frowned upon. With no pitching and no money, the La Russa’s fall into last place and St. Louis burns to the groud leading another installment of the Kurt Russel movies, Escape from St.L.
Hypothetical Scenario #2 – The Cards let Pujols walk and the finally financially sound Cubbies decide to pay him 500 million dollars over the next 27 years because that’s the sort of contract they like to give out.
The once financially sound Cubs are once again broke and are unable to maintain Wrigley Field. After only half of a season, the health department is forced to shut down the stadium because Cubs fans are dirty, drunk, fucks and are unable to act like normal human beings. The front office sells the 13-inch Daewoo TV’s they have hanging around the stadium in hopes of breaking even, which they found almost covers the bills because Wrigley is a piece of shit and is only worth about 250 dollars. The team goes bankrupt and moves to Quebec where Pujols decides to retire in order to become a Canadian Mountie.
Regardless of which one plays out, either the Cubs or the Cards are totally screwed. Well, the Cubs will be screwed no matter what happens because whoever is running them is a total idiot who only cares about selling tickets, not what the product the tickets are being bought for. This is the season of the Reds and you can feel it in the air. All the Reds fans I’ve spoken with this year have a real sense of optimism, which for the first time in years is totally legitimate. It’s simple- We have a better product than the other teams in our division. As long as Dusty can piece this puzzle together, it’s ours to lose.
Baseball is here and it feels different. But even if things don’t work out and the Reds don’t win 95 games, I’m still going to enjoy every game and will still feel empty once Marty and Cowboy go off the air at the end of the season. Because it’s more than just a sport. It’s hotdogs, beer, tobacco, and sitting outside getting sunburns. It’s Baseball.
Let’s play ball.