This archived article was written by: KC Smurthwaite
Sit down, Christopher Walken. This isn’t something that can be solved with a cowbell.
Love is in the air. Okay, that didn’t sound right, but that’s what people tell me. I think it could be the love of summer that they’re smelling. The sweet smell of baseball season, perhaps. Technically, the season started in Japan last week with a two-game series between the punchless Seattle Mariners and the hapless Oakland Athletics. After playing the games, the teams promptly flew back to the United States and played a handful of spring training games, which don’t count in the standings.
Baseball arguably has the most grueling sports schedule with 162 games squished into five months. That comes to one day off out of every ten. I can only imagine what the players do on their day off … curling up on the hotel bed and hoping for death?
But there are some who defy the odds and keep chugging along. Jamie Moyer just made the Colorado Rockies starting rotation after having to sit out all of last year with an injury. Okay, so why is that news? Just because Jamie Moyer is 49 years old. Forty-nine! He’s the Methuselah of Modern Baseball. He should be filling out his AARP application and playing with the grand kids at this stage of life.
Moyer is the active leader among current MLB players for most wins, most losses and most strikeouts. He needs just one win to become the oldest pitcher to ever a major league game. Moyer, whose fastball averages a measly 81 mph, is still going strong and proving no matter how old you are, you can still put on the spikes, and if you can throw strikes and keep the ball low, you’ve got a chance to play. The Smurf is the first to predict it: One day, you’ll see a heartwarming movie about Moyer. The next, you’ll see him pitching not for the Rockies, but for Colonial Penn life insurance commercials.
Here’s another name to watch this season: Yu Darvish. Fairly cool name. He’s the new Texas Rangers pitcher and expected to be the biggest thing out of Japan since Ichiro made the jump. Darvish is a 25-year old phenom who has made baseball scouts drool since he was 17 years old. He had the chance to play in the USA a year later, but opted to stay and play in Japan. In the World Baseball Classic, he wowed fans everywhere by striking out 20 in 13 innings, while picking up two wins and a save. Not bad at all. Darvish will also be the first Iranian-Japanese player to play in the big leagues. The Texas Rangers have high hopes for him – understandable, since they paid Darvish’s Japanese team more than $50 million just to negotiate with him.
The last story line we’ll pick up today is the expanded playoffs. Major League Baseball is moving from eight teams to ten teams, meaning that one of every three clubs will get to the playoffs. That’s still fewer than the other professional sports leagues – 12 of the 32 professional football teams go to the post-season and 16 of the 30 teams advance in pro basketball and hockey, proving that mediocrity has its rewards. But for baseball, in theory, a third-place team in its division could end up winning the World Series. Of course, the fact that baseball will pad its coffers by tens of millions of dollars with more teams competing longer might just have something to do with the historic decision.
So that’s a quick rundown of what this season holds for baseball fans – drama, intrigue, fatigue, high stakes, and a grandfatherly pitcher possibly soft-tossing his way into the record books.
I’m ready for it. Let’s play ball. I got a fever.