From this side of the holidays, the baseball season looks FAR closer. And is it just me, or did the holiday season seem to last forever this year? I mean, I felt like the holiday frenzy revved up well before Thanksgiving, which I guess isn't new, but there was a sort of weird intensity to it this year. It makes me dislike the holiday season more each year...let's just all calm down, shall we? Christmas would be so much more fun if everyone actually did what they wanted to do, instead of continuing to see people they don't really want to see, buy presents out of obligation, and generally wear themselves out because that's the way they've always done it.
Anyways, baseball. It's coming. Target Field may be a block of ice right now, but still, it's coming. While we all wait for spring, all we have to amuse ourselves is the off season shuffle of players from one team to another, and the grand chess match that is the assembling of the roster for the coming year. Oh, the drama.
First of all, let me say I'm intrigued by the Japanese kid. I know, that's not a flattering or PC way to refer to him, but I promise I'll learn his name soon. I know he hasn't played in the majors yet, I know he's an unknown quantity, but attitude goes a very long way with me, and his is good. Team player, hard worker, good-natured and ready for anything: that's how we roll. I'm eager to see what he can do.
As to the other decision in the infield, I'm less than thrilled. Letting BOTH Hudson and Hardy go? Hm. We are not amused. We are even less amused with the putting of all our eggs in the Casilla basket. I'm not convinced on that one. I liked Hudson and I really, really liked Hardy, so this is a tough one to swallow. But in the spirit of trying to live more in the present each day, I'm going to give Casilla a chance. And I can see where that money we saved is headed...
Working on keeping Pavano and Thome. VERY GOOD CHOICE. Pavano fits here, he likes it here, he was a leader on our young staff. We need him. And the fact that he is great here and was a colossal waste of time and money for the Yankees is something I will never get tired of. And Uncle Jim...we must, must, MUST keep Uncle Jim. It was so nice to have a legitimate DH last year, someone we could actually count on to get the big hit when we needed it. I don't care that he's getting old. I don't care that he can't field his position. I don't care about any of it. Because I was SO GLAD to have a DH that actually made pitchers nervous. And if there's a better example for young players to look up to, I have no idea who it would be. The man exemplifies class and integrity, and that's the sort of guy we want on this team. That's the sort of guy EVERYONE should want on their team. So yeah, if we have an aging DH with a few shortcomings in Jim Thome, I'll still take him. HANDS DOWN.
And lastly, the pitching. Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly comfortable with the rotation OR the bullpen thus far...we don't have an ace, the rest of the starters are shaky, the bullpen is pretty patchy, blah blah blah. However, I am here to tell you that when I heard Jesse Crain was leaving, my first thought was: FINALLY. FINALLY I don't have to watch him schlep into the game to give up some gigantic hit and blow the game. And before anyone starts squawking about the great last half of last year, let me just say, THINK BACK. Think back to BEFORE that time. Think back to every time he came into the game and left something hanging over the plate like a big grapefruit, and all the times you groaned in disgust. Think about it. Happened a lot, didn't it? And even when he came in last year, during his blaze of glory (which I don't remember as being that impressive, frankly; I still got a hot, sick rush of panic whenever I saw him trotting out to the mound), were you ever REALLY confident? I mean, REALLY? Of course you weren't. Because if you remember his entire tenure with us, you'd remember that in his hands, the baseball is a land mine, just waiting to explode its way over the fence. There is a reason I have a physiological response to his presence in a game. There is a reason I break out into a sweat and rub my hands over my face in terror. There is a reason I'm happy to see him go. And that's because it was past time for him to leave. And if you still, STILL think I'm nuts and you STILL say he was brilliant last year, I would submit that even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile (like Brett Favre last year) and that it's very, very unlikely that it will be repeated in the next season (like Brett Favre this year.) And sure, we might not have much in the way of replacements for Jesse Pain, but honestly, if I'm going to watch a disaster on the mound, I am ready for a NEW disaster, instead of the same one I've been watching for the last six years. Particularly since any new disaster will likely be younger and have lots of room for improvement, unlike Jesse Crain, who isn't getting any younger and whose full potential has already been seen. And as if there were any more hint from the universe that this man is not meant to be with the Twins, he's now with the White Sox. As a closer. A position previously held by Bobby Jenks, the grossest, most thuggish creature in the majors. I won't go so far as to paint Crain with the same brush, but I'm just saying. That team, that position? I'm going out on a limb and saying our hitters will be licking their chops to get on some of those big fat sliders (which is his (only) out pitch, and everyone knows it).
So. Just going to soak up some winter sun, and keep an ear to the ground, hoping to see Pavano and Thome back for more this year. Oh, and maybe read some Thomas Boswell or Roger Angell to keep me in the baseball place...I don't think it's any coincidence that the most eloquent writers in sport are baseball writers.
"Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball." ~Pete Hamill