Festering through midwinter

Pitchers and catchers report to major league camps next week. I love baseball and I’m looking forward to its return, though it feels like the Cubs just won the World Serious a week ago.       baseball_in_the_snow-2

I’m always conflicted this time of year. We’re deep in the college basketball conference season, with March Madness (and my annual Vegas trip) in just a few weeks. This is the time of year when I’ve mostly lost interest in the NBA and I’m tired of Midwestern winter. So I start catching up with MLB news, assessing the value of trades and free agent signings, checking the calendar for potential road trips to baseball parks, and working on my strategy for betting season win totals. But it’s also still college and high school basketball season, so I have to watch those games. (Well. Not have to, exactly. But what’s the alternative? Cleaning the garage? Ho ho. I think not.)

The big news in Pirateland is that the club is moving its outfielders around. After trying all winter to trade face-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen, the Bucs have resigned themselves to keeping him (at least until the trade deadline at the end of July). McCutchen had the worst DRS (defensive runs saved) in MLB last year, and also produced the worst batting average and OPS (on-base plus slugging) of his career. The Pirates announced they were moving Cutch to right field and putting Starling Marte in center.

I expect a bounceback year offensively, and McCutchen accepted the change like the class act that he is. Shortly after Pittsburgh announced the move, Cutch tweeted a photo of Roberto Clemente playing right field. As I’ve said before, it’s always more fun to root for good guys. And Andrew McCutchen is one of the best.

                                                                                  *****

Last fall the Indianapolis Indians announced their plan to extend the protective netting behind the plate all the way past first and third bases. Gan, Jack, and I share Indians season tickets, and the new net will be between our seats and the field.

Now, we’re not as nimble as we used to be. So the net is probably a good thing. We’re often distracted during games, drinking beer and making stupid wagers (“I bet the catcher’s throw to second after the warmup pitches will be in the dirt”), and none of us baseball_diamond_in_snow_-_panoramiowant to take a foul ball in the noggin. (We’ll still be able to make a play on pop-up foul balls over the net. Jack actually caught one like that with his belly last year.)

But before renewing our tickets, we went down to the ballpark to check out the view from our seats and see how distracting the net would be. As usual, nobody wanted to make a decision, so we decided to discuss it over a beer. Or beers.

“We can just fester through this season,” Gan said. “Then if it’s too distracting we can change next year.”

“Fester?” I said. “Whadda ya mean, fester?”

“You know, fester. Just get through the year.”

I’ve always said that I don’t read enough books, but most of my friends read even fewer. After an argument about the etymology of the word fester (and another beer), we decided to keep the same seats. I don’t like looking through the net, but I’ll probably get used to it. And when I take one of the grandkids to the game, I won’t have to worry about making an error and having them get hit by a foul ball.

                                                                                  *****

Over the last two weeks of January, the Savannah State Tigers rolled to a six game winning streak, beating MEAC foes both at home and away. They’ve since lost two straight, but they lead the nation in tempo with 81 possessions for every 40 minutes. They also boast the shortest average possession length in NCAA Division 1 (12.1 seconds). The Tigers’ record currently stands at 10-14, but, with five games to play they still have chance to break .500 on the season. And I’m pretty sure most coaches don’t want to face them (though their players probably do).  

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