February 23, 2010
So what if my obsessions include any and all indications that spring is somehow on the horizon. So far I’ve been able to hold off until pitchers and catchers report to spring training but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, down the road, I’m able to nudge that warm and fuzzy feeling even further back in the calendar year like, say, Mardi Gras.
One shouldn’t tread too close to the winter solstice when attempting to channel that transitional period between winter and summer, I suppose, but it’s always worked for me. Over recent times the Daytona 500 has even taken on the trappings of this most precious frontier. Groundhog Day, of course, is a given.
Not that there aren’t a slew of signature glories attached to winters at 40 degrees north latitude. For those of us lucky enough to hang on the "Wasatch Back," there’s nothing quite like Mount Timpanogos frozen in white on a bluebird day or the middle section of the Provo River snaking its way through the snowbound fields of the Heber Valley.
Admittedly, however, it is baseball I crave! And the front-end threshold of my immersion into that exquisite pastime is when pitchers and catchers and anyone else looking for a leg up on the rest of the team report to spring training. Actually, the week leading up to that momentous shift in the paradigm also finds me somewhat awash in endorphins.
And I’m also very much into the gossip/trivia aspect that goes along with our first inkling as to how our boys of summer spent their off season. Scenarios relating to how Tiger Woods spends his off time can come and go with nary the raise of an eyebrow but when I hear that my third baseman has shaved or that my catcher has put on a few extra pounds (on purpose), well, then, it gets the juices flowing.
The only thing close to a bombshell, however, came with word that one of the first things my once-big-slugging left fielder did after showing up was to tell the press, "I know I’m not going to be here next year." Ambivalence is setting in. At this point I’m not sure if that is good news or bad news. That’s not really true. I like Manny!
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My second baseman, the one who can hit, is still in Venezuela working out visa problemos stemming from misdemeanor drunk-driving charges. They allowed, to their chagrin, the one who could actually turn a double play to successfully test the free agency waters, as it were. Being a Los Angeles Dodger fan is a lot like following the burlesque circuit.
At this point it is unknown as to whether the — pardon the term — "ace" of my starting rotation has resolved the lingering issues that plagued his performance during the latter half of the season last year. Even the tried-and-true major league juju-modifier of tying one’s shoes in a complex variable couldn’t get him untracked during crunch time.
According to reports, however, he’s gotten out of the habit of staring at the ground and shifting his feet while mumbling to himself in the sub-auditory range. And I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that, so far, no mention has been made as to whether or not the hyperventilation issue that ensues whenever he can’t get his slider over the plate has been resolved.
The manager and his agent haven’t, as of yet, been able to work out an extension of his contract that is entering its final year. Now normally that wouldn’t really be an issue, but this year, with the owners currently having a nasty go at it in divorce court and the general manager, equally worried about his own gig, spouting off about the club’s ongoing effort to lower its payroll, nervousness within the fan community abounds.
This lack of comfortability also extends up to the broadcast booth where Vin Scully, the Sinatra of sports broadcasters, may well be in his final year as "voice of the Dodgers." As the lone remaining thread of continuity extending back to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and the Ebbets Field ambiance of the 1950s Bums, his loss would leave an unimaginable vacuum.
Having Vinnie around to soothe the savage beast during the long season’s figurative dog days has always provided a humorous and intellectual perspective on the game. And you’ve gotta love an Internet that streams Vinnie’s insightful anecdotes toward whatever insensitive but loyal eardrums are open for business in the foothills of northern Utah.
Ah yes! Another day, another profundity in the big, wide, wonderful world of baseball. Do you think that being a Dodger fan could somehow be traced to a karmic misdeed of some sort? Nah!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.