Every year baseball beat writers and columnists write about the first week of the baseball season like it’s the dawn of a new age. Every city has hope, every team has a shot, everyone is in first place.
No matter where you live, you read this story each April, and every year it rings true. Because across the country, hope does grab us each spring. When pitchers and catchers arrive in Florida and Arizona, fans of 30 teams all have hope that this is their year.
Of course, 29 of the 30 teams will come up short.
That’s why I always wondered why no one ever writes about the second week of the baseball season. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Week 2? The week when reality hits, and you realize your team is the same group of sorry bums that couldn’t get it done last year.
Every year, Hope convinces us that things will be different. And yet every year, by Week 2, Hope gets back together with Reality, her old squeeze, and runs off to another city. And we are left home alone to wallow with only the MLB “Extra Innings” package and our old pal Misery to keep us company.
Yes, Hope…she’s a provocative paramour. But, after a lifetime of falling for this vixen, shouldn’t we have learned by now? Shouldn’t we know better? Shouldn’t we have gotten over her?
Red from Shawshank said it best:
“Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
It’s the same story no matter where you go.
In da Bronx, Hope let A-Rod get off to a hot start, but then she mocked New Yorkers by having Letterman funnyman Biff give the guy a topless massage on national television. That sounds like a wash to me. Plus, even with a payroll greater than Lithuania’s GNP, Yankees fans know in their hearts that they don’t have the starting pitching to win the World Series.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Triboro Bridge in Queens, Hope has Mets fans relying on two over-the-hill pitchers to get them to the Series. But Reality keeps reminding them that that’s as much of a long shot as Sanjaya winning American Idol. (Oh wait.)
Or in Boston, where the Hope came in the form of a Gyroball-throwing Asian sensation called Dice-K. Unless he also has a Masters in psychology, the annual Manny blow-up looms over the team that Epstein built.
In Philadelphia, Hope promised that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley would lead the team into a new era of clutch hitting. But by Week 2, she laughingly abandoned the “City of Brotherly Love” as Philly left 82 runners on base through eight games (and you thought averaging over 10 LOBs per game was impossible).
In Chi-Town, Cubs fans hoped Alfonso Soriano would bring them a ring, but with a DL more crowded than a school infirmary on “Mystery Meat” day, the loveable losers look like they have been bitten by the Billy Goat yet again.
On the South Side, White Sox fans have basically the same rotation (minus Freddy Garcia) that was so terrible last season. Though Hope still whispers in Chicagoans’ ears: “it’s also the same rotation that won us a ring.”
The Dodgers have a team capable of winning it all this year, but how long will it be before a torn Nomah hamstring hamstrings L.A.’s dreams?
In Anaheim, a hot start had the Angels as the darlings of every Internet Power Ranking, but the darlings’ bullpen has looked mighty vulnerable in losing three of the last four.
In St. Louis, Hope has fans thinking back-to-back titles. But Cardinals fans know a dynasty is built with an armory, and arms are not La Russa’s boys’ strong suit.
Under Leo Mazzone, Hope has convinced the Baltimore faithful that their young arms could actually win a bunch of games this year…that is, if they pitched for a team that could actually hit.
In Seattle, Hope has the Mariners above .500 in Week 2. But Misery reminds Washingtonians that they have only played five games and a .187 team batting average isn’t a recipe for success.
Just when Colorado thought it had finally shoveled itself out of its recent baseball misery by putting together a pitching staff that could compete, fans realized their team’s inability to hit in the clutch could bury the Rockies like an avalanche.
Or in cities like Washington, Miami (Florida), Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, where Hope had fans believing that anyone can get hot and win it. Yes, the great thing about baseball is that sometimes, the have-nots actually can make a run.
Only to have that feeling crushed, when Hope jumped out the window to be with her more wealthy sugar daddies. By Week 2, Misery let them know that their chances are closer to one in a million than one in a hundred (so you’re saying there’s a chance!).
Of course, in some towns Hope has lingered around a little bit longer. But most of these fans, in the back of their head, know her stay is fleeting.
Atlanta is off to one of its best starts in franchise history, and fans probably will have Hope for the entire season. But only because Hope loves to tease Braves fans through September. October is the month of heartbreak for Chipper and Co.
In Toronto, Jays fans have a first place team in Week 2. But the Blue Jays trying to win the AL East is like Lyndrea Williams trying to win a family tennis tournament. Venus and Serena simply play on another level.
Detroit’s World Series run shocked the world last year. But Hope, she’s a fickle pickle. She doesn’t often hang around the same city two years in a row. Just ask White Sox fans.
Padres fans are hoping a good start and a staff highlighted by Jake Peavy and Greg Maddux can carry them to their third straight division title. But the only Padres that strike any fear in opposing pitchers’ hearts are featured on Gilesbaseball.com (coming soon).
Minnesota’s hopes revolve around a young, talented team and a new stadium in its near future. But if recent reports are any indicator, that future may be without Johan Santana. If your team can’t keep a Johan Santana, Hope isn’t likely to stick around very long either.
In Cleveland, a Moneyball-like approach has many experts picking the Indians as their sleeper this season. But Indians fans know Misery better than most. They know from 60 years of losing that Hope cannot survive long in Cleveland. This year, she was buried under a foot of snow before the season even began.
Her flirtatious ways fool us all. She prays on our weakness, our desperation, our need to be a part of a winner. Yet, by Week 2, she has left many of us alone with Misery. By August, most of us will be cursing ourselves for getting duped again. And in November, almost all of us will look back on the season with disappointment.
But buck up, baseball fans. Hope will tell you there’s always next year. She’ll whisper in your ear, “just a few months until pitchers and catchers.”
That’s when you’ll smile, and fall for Hope all over again.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/leerussakoff.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.