By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) “It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime, and ending with the hard facts of autumn.”—David McCullough, Ken Burns’ Baseball
Unfortunately for the great historian and narrator David McCullough and filmmaker Ken Burns, they did not foresee Chicago baseball in 2012. Fond expectancy, my pale pucker. Try funereal complacency.
It was apparent after the last out of the 2011 season on both sides of town. Hurricane Ozzie had pushed to South Beach. Mike Quade had nice-guyed his way out of a job. No more Zambrano feces-throwing, no more Buehrle steadiness.
At the very least, our insanely warm winter should have been a dire warning. What should have been a typical harsh season full of chill and white death was instead a mild mirage—a Siren that lured us into an illusion that all is well, all is great.
Baseball is supposed to coincide with rebirth and renewal. With no death there can be no rebirth.
Oh, there are some buds sprouting. New managers on both sides of town. Possibly a savior come from far away on one side. But it is not enough to breathe vitality into the barrenness that has stretched its claws across the new year.
Shadows—an Alfonso Soriano contract, Paul Konerko’s age, sketchy pitching staffs, and one general manager who refuses to acknowledge that in order for a phoenix to rise it must first combust and another whose pilot light is only just beginning to flicker—swallow up the sunlight needed for any blossoming in 2012.
Save your sanity, Cubs and White Sox fans. Accept now that this summer will be a wash. Watch your team and analyze the progression of Starlin Castro, the settlings-in of Robin Ventura and Dale Sveum, the (probable) boomerang of Adam Dunn, the light bulb (maybe) going on in Alex Rios’ head, the trade value of Matt Garza.
But don’t circle any days in October. Fire a preemptive strike against disappointment.
Baseball Prospectus has the Cubs winning 74.3 games, and Las Vegas just about agrees. The White Sox simulated wins right now are at 79.9, and much of Vegas has them at 75 wins, give or take a hook. Of course they still have to play the games, but none of that is encouraging, especially when neither BP nor Vegas—especially Vegas—is in the business of being wrong.
For painfully dense fans who tilt at such windmills, the White Sox will be a better team than the Cubs in 2012. Congrats to them on nailing the second Bozo Bucket and winning the Icee gift certificate. But they will not be a playoff team. They are a dysentery epidemic behind the Detroit Tigers, and the AL Wild Card is not coming out of the Central Division.
The Cubs… the Cubs have a banner of Paul friggin’ Maholm hanging on the outside of Wrigley Field.
So please don’t invest much emotionally into either team this season. Try enjoying baseball for the game it is for just this season instead. Change the channel if you feel yourself getting too angry. Bang your face off of the stove if you become too irrationally optimistic after a three-game winning streak. I’ve been guilty of failing to check myself way too many times in the past, and I’ve deservedly received my annual baseball ulcer and, thus, wrecked myself.
Perhaps get more acquainted with sabermetrics, painful as that might sound, since that’s where the game’s proper analysis is shifting towards. Maybe focus on the non win/loss stuff and what that says about the future of the Cubs and/or Sox. Take in more games from around the rest of the league—understand what’s working elsewhere and why. Hell, for you tribalists, how about actually watching the team you hate for no logical reason on the other side of town and accurately analyzing it instead of painting it with the always rhetorically sound “they suck and are trash/gay” brush. At least it will strengthen your pointless arguments.
Or, when all else fails, do what I so often do—laugh at it all. Mock it. Push it down the stairs and point and giggle. Gallows humor is a wonderful thing, and I would have had to quit consuming sports a long time ago without it.
There will be no baseball ulcer for me this summer. I am checked and will be unwrecked. No punching my couch or steering wheel because of baseball until at least 2013 because I have a good idea of what’s in store before the first pitch of the season.
You would do well to join me in enjoying the ride in this baseball purgatory. I’ll bring beer.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.