Guide for the PreSeason Baseball Fan
Let's Play Ball!
By Kristoffer Pedlar
Sports fans are fuelled by passion. We cheer loudly as our teams soar to the highest of heights and watch helplessly as they suffer an agonizing defeat. No matter what fate greets your favourite baseball team at the end of a season, the off-season always offers you that secret elixir called hope that keeps us all coming back for more.
Every new season is a chance to write a new script, to shake off the demons of the year before and take that next step toward the ultimate prize of a World Series championship. Whether your team is rebuilding with bright young stars or swinging for the fences with older, more established players, the off-season can be an agonizing spectacle for even the most devout fan. It is a roller coaster of emotions that you can only hope ends with your team improving in some way on the year before.
For fans, especially the hardcore ones, it can be a frustrating time. Checking your twitter feed every day for the latest updates, listening to talk radio dissect player movement and the latest rumours, separating the “fake news” from what is real, and sometimes being forced to watch your closest competition get markedly better.
How is a fan to cope with all of these stressors? What can you do to get through this tumultuous time in your fan going life?
And then four glorious words bring you delicately back to Earth: “Pitchers and Catchers report”.
The off-season is over. It played out how it played out and now your team is starting Spring training with whatever it has. Maybe they’re still looking for that final piece to put them over the edge, maybe the bullpen isn’t completely set or a couple of starting positions are left to iron out, but the heavy lifting has been done.
So where we at?
I have some advice for every kind of fan during this current baseball pre-season, as we shed the off-season that was and look forward to the season ahead.
Firstly, to the fan who checks their twitter feed every spare moment at work, every bathroom break, every commute home hoping to hear the next breaking trade or last minute free agent signing - relax. The insanity is over. You can put down your phone for a few minutes and enjoy a dinner talking to your family. You don’t need to secretly check your updates in the bathroom or stay up late hoping to hear about the latest transaction.
Rest, my friend. You’ve earned it.
There will be plenty of time during the long 162 game season to post your deepest fears about the makeup of your team, your anger fuelled rants or your campaign to get rid of the team’s front office. Enjoy the one and only time of year where hope literally springs eternal. Every team has a chance, and promise emanates from each Spring Training complex. Except for the one that houses the San Diego Padres; those guys have no chance this year.
So save up those great 140 character puns, those witty digs at the coaching staff and their inability to manage a bullpen. It’s a new season, and you’re going to need all the energy and sarcasm you can muster to get through it. Start slow. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
To the doomsday artist – Try to look at the big picture. It’s only the start of Spring Training. Maybe your team’s hopes for the coming season aren’t sunk because of a lack of activity over the winter or on your team’s spring quest for a backup catcher. It’s the bloody pre-season! Your team is undefeated. Anything can happen. Even for the worst franchises, this is a hopeful time of year. Have faith. Sometimes those big free agent moves of November and December pale in comparison to the talented rookie you discover by accident during the Spring (see: Roberto Osuna) or the reclamation project that turns his career around (Tyson Ross?). Have patience and don’t lose hope until at least the end of April. Unless you cheer for the Padres.
To the fan who constantly comes up with unrealistic trade scenarios –don’t stop. Even though most of the big moves are done, there are still plenty of little ones to take into consideration. And once your team has its 25 man roster in place, start strategizing. If your team makes a move that negates your fantasy plans, recalibrate like a GPS and keep coming up with new ones. You’re what being a fan is really all about. You constantly think about ways to make your team better even if their front office has stopped. No matter how delusional your scenarios may be, and despite your unrealistic ideas, you have your passion firmly pointed in the right direction. This is not meant to be sarcastic. Though most trade ideas posted online are overwhelmingly lopsided and it’s rare to see big moves, if any, made in the Spring, making up fake trades is a telltale sign of a fan who is passionate about their team. Believe in yourself, you can do anything; except fix the San Diego Padres.
To the person who calls in to argue on talk radio – breathe. Seriously, take a damn breath. We know you’re really calling into the Jeff Blair show for some catharsis after a stressful offseason, but he also knows a great deal about the game. We know you need to unleash your misdirected rage at Tim and Sid, or Bob McCowan. That’s why they’re there, to be completely honest. Let it out if you must, but before you do, try to think for a moment of what you sound like to others who are listening. Your point isn’t likely to sound rational on the air, almost no one ever does. And you’re most likely going to get torn to shreds by the sarcastic wit of the hosts you’re trying to pick a fight with. I mean, is it really even worth getting this upset? Hold on to that rage, that passion, that venom, and write it down. The season hasn’t even started yet and last time I checked you’ve got 162 games to gripe about once it does start, and if you’re a Padres fan you literally have 162 games to gripe about. Journal your emotions out or jot your anger down in a well-formed letter that you’ve taken the time to craft and shape. Don’t let yourself be the next victim of a smart-ass radio show host. You’re better than that.
To the overly emotional fan – Remember that ultimately baseball is just a game. When your team doesn’t sign the big name free agent or bring back your favourite player, try to remember that it is a business and you’ll probably like the next player just as much. The 1992 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays underwent a huge transformation into the 1993 team and they won back-to-back World Series. For every Dave Winfield you have to say goodbye to, there is sometimes a Paul Molitor waiting to take his place. Be strong. It sometimes gets better…unless you cheer for the Padres.
To the Bandwagon Jumper – If you’re with the team at the beginning, try to stay with us. If things go pear-shaped, and they sometimes do, try to hold on, or see you in a few years I guess.
Honestly, you’re not a true fan if you stop cheering for your team when they don’t meet early season expectations. It’s part of being a fan; you have to be there during the good times and the bad. You’ll never understand true happiness when your team wins unless you know what the pain of a terrible season feels like. The 2015 Blue Jays return to the playoffs tasted so much sweeter if you happened to go to games a few years earlier and had to watch Josh Towers pitch. The Cubs World Series win meant far more to the fans who endured decades of missed opportunities and failure. Padres fans are just beginning their journey, but a victory decades from now will taste much sweeter because of the year they’re about to have.
We true fans will welcome you back even if you abandon ship during a May losing streak only to rejoin the fanbase during the late July winning streak. We will happily enjoy the legroom at the ballpark while you’re gone.
Ultimately, at the end of the off-season, whether your team has improved significantly in your eyes or not, try to remember that you are a fan. You love your team win or lose, you love the game of baseball, and at the end of the day, as Jerry Seinfeld famously said: “we’re just cheering for laundry.”