March 31, moving unto April. I'll be leaving the US this upcoming winter and I don't know when I'll be back. This summer is the last time I'll be able to celebrate with the Reds and not just alongside them. It's a moderately frightening aspect to leave unfinished business, but then I remember I've done it before.
This time last year I was flying back. Back from East Europe, back from a year of hiding from responsibility, from my family, from my niece. I had just returned from a year of metaphysical dick-twirling, back to the US where I had a few friends I owed favors to and a large family who regretted me leaving.
I flew back to New York City. I found a Reds bar and watched Opening Day. Ramon Hernandez did something beautiful, you may remember it. I high-fived some random folks in red wishbone C's, walked back eighty blocks thinking that the year of hustling news and playing journalism wasn't the dream, but the spring and summer of the Reds would be. After all, 2010 just happened, didn't it?
But things change, man. If you told me last year I'd be writing this whilst bleary-drunk in a South Carolina hotel room I wouldn't believe it. If you told me I was about to drive East with a 20-year-old I wouldn't believe it. If you told me I'd be writing inspired by a dude named after Mark McLemore, I would've probably believed it, but that's just weird, so hey.
There's probably a hundred theories on what the Reds did to move from perennial contenders throughout the Seventies into the Biggest and Reddest of Machines. They haven't figured it out yet, which is probably telling. All of their big players were beyond the "right" age, their pitching was actually at its nadir in re: the past couple decades and the next one, and there's generally no logic behind it. God or Slyde himself couldn't give a satisfactory explanation on why or how.
Is this year The Year? Logic wouldn't have a good reason why not. But this isn't a chess blog or even a chess pie blog, so I can't say any more than you can. We've all certainly projected a lot into this summer. Fat Vegas Alan, not so long ago, remarked on the Votto Window as:
Is it love? Yeah, it just might be. Will it last? No, probably not. But look kid, you’re holding hands and riding ferris wheels with the prettiest girl in town and she’s letting you do things you’ve never done before (at least not since ‘95) so it’s only right that you pay for her movie tickets and ice cream cones.
We still have those expectations. One doesn't take the prettiest girl in town to the ferris wheel just to hit singles. Me more than anyone here is an OBP hog, but I understand the need to hit some metaphorical extra bases when you're in such a position. I'm leaving the country this next autumn. I'd like to leave it with a ring.
But what can I, what can any of us do? When things get nasty, will I turn on my favorite team or will I cheer them through the Fire Swamp? I've invested a lot in these young men, and I can't think of any way I would root against them. I've invested so much into them and they've invested so little in to me. I could bark about how unfair this is, I could complain about Playing the Game the Right Way or Doing the Little Things or Showing Respect to the Game. Or I could just follow these goofy smiles, these balding youths, these huddled masses yearning to be free into my own perfectionist conceptualization of what they could be. Not because I think this is the best Reds team ever assembled but because I have nothing else to lose.
Life throws curves the like Joey Votto couldn't hit. Life will take a Johnny Cueto slider and deposit it into the left-centerfield gap of strained metaphors. I would love to be able to compare this year's projected Pythag to 1975's and say why this proves that the Reds will persevere. But we've all learned last year that such is horseshit when what we want is for saidsuch to be bueno.
I saw a wonderful team lose tonight. And, to be honest, I saw a wonderful team win as well. It broke my heart, but that'll happen in March. It won't be the last time.
I came into the 2011 season chipper and impervious. I forgot about the slog, I forgot about the 162-game torture. In Posnanski's book about that 1975 team, he writes about his slack-jawed awe at Pete Rose playing every game in a largely meaningless regular season. In our hearts, in our memory, we forget about the marathon and only remember the sprint.
This upcoming baseball season, like life, will give us our beatings. There will be losing streaks, there will be unfathomable injuries (even more, Godforbid), there will be epochal sadness the likes of which has only been plumbed in Werner Herzog films. The baseball season is a Sisyphean task and none of us, poor fans we be, are in any way prepared for the torment we are about to pay for.
Yet I, and perhaps you too, is chomping at the bit. Blood and Thunder, home runs off of Waino, and striking out the Milwaukee side may possibly great us. We will be persuaded, perhaps by groupthink, perhaps by personal negativity, to feed the likes of Bronson Arroyo or Juan Francisco into a woodchipper. We will be considering, in our darkest moments of our darkest days, about trading Joey Votto for flippin' prospects or summat.
Arguing logic is fun. Theorizing on where this season will take us will be a blast. But none of us knows where we'll stand in six months. All I can hope for, all we can hope for, is an exciting few seasons and a thrilling day-by-day. 1975 looked forlorn as well. It'll be a long strange trip that will make a certain Spring Training Red Reporter Trio's look like a card game of Hearts at the retirement center.
Things will be weird, things will be horrifying, and things will be beautiful. I'm just honored and privileged to spend all of the adjectives with you.
The Jews, from what I gather, celebrate the spring with a hearty "Next year in Jerusalem!"
I've been cut off long ago, but let me raise a metaphorical glass full of whatever you'd like to fill that metaphorical cup with and holler out a hearty, "This October in Great American!"