It's extremely easy to get caught up in statistics and what baseball aught to be compared to how it really is. I've had my disagreements all offseason with Omar Minaya's lackluster team design and Jerry Manuel's awful idea of rushing Jenrry Mejia into the bullpen. I've watched the hated rival Yankees build a dangerous team through shrewd trades and intelligent free agent signings. I've dealt with the Phillies trading for the best pitcher in baseball while my team languishes in mediocrity. It's been very difficult to think any positive thoughts when it comes to baseball.
The weather has changed in New Jersey. Gone is the snow that choked the entire Northeast. The flood waters from the insane rain that fell last week have subsided, replaced with sun and warmth. We've lost an hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings, sure, but that extra hour allows us to enjoy the sunshine for an hour longer. More importantly, that extra hour will give us an extra hour of baseball.
I played baseball today with some buddies of mine for the first time in a very long time. We're not quite ready to give up our dreams of The Show quite yet. Sure, we're only playing on an 8th grade field and it's 300 down the line but it's our only chance to actually play the game we love. It's a chance to put away all the analysis, VORPs and, numbers and just play the damn game and enjoy the great outdoors. We're not very good but we wouldn't have it any other damn way. Once in a while someone cranks one high and deep and we all cheer. Mostly, however, it's a chance to make believe that we're still kids and have some fun.
The spirit of competition is a wonderful thing. Even though the game was meaningless, everyone was playing like it was the World Series. Bragging rights are ultimately important. When I stepped up to the plate losing 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th, I could feel the pressure. How could I let my friends and teammates down? It would be embarrassing if I couldn't do anything. More importantly, it would be embarrassing if I let everyone down. Of course, I ended up getting the hit and my friend Chris ended up hitting a walk off double to win.
It was the most fun I've had in years. I loved every last second of it.
I think it's far too easy to forget the simple facts of baseball. It is just a game. As my mother used to say when I throw a temper tantrum because one of my favorite sports teams lost, "Andrew it's just a ball!" The Mets playing sub-.500 ball will have no impact on your life or my life. The most important thing I want to get out of baseball is enjoyment. Joy doesn't necessarily have to come from extreme success. Joy comes from short, fleeting moments. I went to a Mets-Cubs game in 2007 with my father. The Mets ended up winning the game in the bottom of the 9th, coming back from a four run deficit. I will never forget hugging my father in pure joy as the winning run scored, screaming "THE METS F-KING WON!"
These are the moments that make baseball great. Getting together with old friends and hitting around. Going to games with your old man. Coaching or volunteering for a Little League team. Playing catch. Teaching the game to someone who otherwise knows nothing about it.
Guys like Jose Reyes get criticized by Mets fans and the New York media for "not caring about the game." They ran Lastings Milledge out of town because he high fived fans after hitting a game-tying home run. Are you kidding me? Shame on all of you for forgetting the most important part of baseball: fun. It's ridiculous to ridicule a player for enjoying his time on the field.
Analysis will frustrate me because my enjoyment would be much greater if my team was good. I mean, I know I will be frustrated by the Mets this year. At the same time, though, I'll still support them because I love them. I will also be sure to play more baseball and have fun doing it because in the end, baseball is supposed to be fun. Without that, there's no reason to even care about the sport.
Do not fret, Mets fans. Let's have fun this year and enjoy the game that we all love.
So in the end, as the baseball season comes very near, I would like to share with you a story I found online about baseball. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
"In the big inning, God created Heaven on Earth. And it was without form, and void. God separated the dirt from the grass. He called the grass Outfield and the dirt He called Infield. God made the Infield a 90-foot square and the Outfield not less than 400 feet to center and 320 feet down the lines. He declared this Fair Territory. All other territory, God then declared, was Foul.
And God divided the players into two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, to play The Game on His field. God called some of these players Pitchers and some of them Hitters. He placed a Pitcher precisely 60 feet 6 inches from a Hitter. Then God commanded that it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the ol' Ballgame.
And God granted jurisdiction of The Game to lesser Gods, whom He called Umpires. God said the Umpires are infallible, blessed with Heavenly authority, whose judgment is not to be questioned under penalty of expulsion from The Game. And God looked at his creation and He was pleased. Then God created the Infield Fly Rule to confuse nonbelievers.
And God said, Let there be light beer, and there was. And, God said, let there be peanuts and hot dogs and overpriced souvenirs and let there be frosty chocolate malts with little wooden spoons that you can buy nowhere else except at this Heaven, which God called a Ballpark, and there was. God looked at His creation and it was good.
And the Lord God formed, from the dust, a collection of elite players in His own image. The Lord God then breathed the breath of life into His creation. God called this creation the National League.
And God said, It is not good for the National League to be alone. The Lord God shall make it a mate. And thus, while the National League slept, God took several of its top players and created the American League.
And God blessed The Game, saying, Be fruitful and multiply. Put teams in every city with deserving fans, God added, even if this occurs at the expense of starting-pitching depth.
From time to time, God understood, The Game would be corrupted by the Serpent. The Serpent was more cunning than any other beast and he would take many wicked forms: the Black Sox, segregation, the Designated Hitter, the Reserve Clause, dead balls, juiced balls, spit balls, corked bats, George Steinbrenner, AstroTurf, the 1981 strike, collusion, lockouts, Pete Rose, the 1994 strike, greenies, cocaine, HGH, Andro, steroids, $20 parking, contraction, corporate mallparks, Scott Boras, Donald Fehr, and Bud Selig.
But, God said, the goodness in The Game shall always prevail. As needed, the Lord shall bestow upon The Game a Savior. And the Savior, like the Serpent, can take many forms. The Savior shall remind Fans how blessed The Game truly is. The Savior shall be called by many names, including Cy, Matty, Honus, Big Train, the Babe, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Buck O'Neil, Hank Greenberg, Red Barber, Harry Carey, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Satchel Paige, Bill Veeck, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Hammerin' Hank, Cool Papa, Dizzy, Lefty, Whitey, Stan the Man, Big Klu, the Say Hey Kid, Campy, Duke, the Mick, the Splendid Splinter, the Gas House Gang, the Big Red Machine, the Damn Yankees, Pudge Fisk, Mike Piazza, Yaz, Pops, the Wizard of Oz, Fernando, George Brett, Moonlight Graham, Roy Hobbs, Wild Thing Vaughn, Bingo Long, the Ryan Express, Donnie Baseball, Rickey, Eck, the Big Unit, the Cactus League, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Camden Yards, Rotisserie Drafts, Web Gems, Derek Jeter, David Wright, Vlad Guerrero, and, from the Far East, Ichiro.
And, God guaranteed, there are many more to come.
God looked upon His creation and He was very pleased. And God spoke, yelling, PLAY BALL!"