Two months into the baseball off-season and I am starting to get restless, itchy, looking for my baseball fix. I am not talking about baseball in the big sense of the word, I am talking the game, on the field, seeing a nasty change-up, a beautifully turned double play, a runner turning a double into a triple, an Ichiro gun to third, a Rolen laser to first, Mariano mowing them down, you get the picture.
After the intensity of the baseball playoffs I have to take a few weeks to catch up on life. In many ways my social life is put on hold through the playoffs. A movie? no time. The gym? not tonight. Quality time with the family? there’s always November. Those first two and a half weeks of the playoffs are so engrossing my non-baseball life stands still. I think it’s a cruel twist of fate that thanksgiving in Canada falls in the middle of the playoffs. What’s worse is that my family and our friends celebrate on the Sunday of the thanksgiving weekend, the first Sunday of the playoffs. Think about it, there could be four games scheduled that day, two game fives, and two game fours. There are usually at least two games to be played, sometimes three, in a great year four, and I have to miss them. Usually I find that some of the better playoff games occur earlier in the playoffs, and that first Sunday sees the most crucial games of the division series. The second cruel twist in this saga is that my friends are not big baseball fans so the TV is not left on during the festivities, and I am cut-off. I can turn it on for a minute or so, at a quiet time, to check the score, or I can deputize one of my kids to do an internet check and report back, but that’s as close as I get. The third unfortunate part of this saga is that I prefer to see games where I don’t already know the score so I can experience the ebb and flow of the game. The playoffs are the climax of the baseball season, although the high point of the playoffs often comes in the division series. The world series is usually a let down, an easing into the off-season with just one game a day and a couple of travel days in between.
My baseball withdrawal starts slowly, after the playoffs I need a break to get back to real life. Then we have the end of season awards; manager hirings and firings; free agents being courted and signed, and finally the winter meetings. But what comes after the winter meetings? Baseball news slows, a few more free agents sign but trades tail off until February. This is the time when my cravings start to dig deep, when I look to see where can I get a fix? But there is nothing out there for me, two long months until pitchers and catchers report, three and a half months until a meaningful game is played.
I have tried several remedies for my winters cravings. I started by taping the playoffs games I missed to watch in December but that left me unsatisfied. I remember the winners, the scores, the key events, and when I sit down to watch a playoff game it just doesn’t get me involved like a real game, my memory of the playoffs is too strong. This year I happened on a new solution. I have subscribed to extra innings for the last two years and I think it is great but obviously those games parallel the season, there is no extra innings in December. But this year, in August, my DVD player died and I replaced it with a DVD recorder. I recorded about ten games in August and September, at random, and I tried hard not to pay attention to the scores. Although I say I recorded games at random I did have some methodology to my recording. I looked to tape games that had a specific interest for me, as opposed to watching a Kansas City versus Tampa Bay match-up. By coincidence the first game I taped was an AJ Burnett start, a dominating performance on August 6th against Arizona. I taped a Dodgers game, just so I could listen to Vin Scully talk his way through a game, nothing says baseball like Vin Scully’s smooth vocal tones coming from your TV or radio. Of course I had to tape a start by Felix Hernandez, the wonderkid. I taped a Brewers game, one where they faced Jake Peavy. Milwaukee has a lot of up and coming kids, Rickie Weeks, JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder, and of course Lyle Overbay, a Brewer at the time.
Because I purchased the DVD in August, and because I have to find quiet times to tape games when my kids aren’t dominating the TV, I only recorded about ten games and I quickly realized that ten games to carry me through the winter just wouldn’t do the job. Stage two of the cure was a recent discovery, MLBTV.com. For ten US dollars, actually $9.95, you gain access to every game played in the 2005 season. Do you want to see Lyle Overbay, AJ Burnett or BJ Ryan play? You can. I am in two DMB leagues and the rookies will be drafted or auctioned in February. If I want to see the difference between Matt Cain, Francisco Liriano, or Felix Hernandez, I can look up the dates they played in Yahoo’s game logs, then go to MLB and watch. I have done that and those guys are good. Liriano does remind me of Johan Santana. Cain looks really good too. MLB also has a condensed version of every game, so pick a game at random and you can see all the key plays in about ten minutes, it’s like taking a Tylenol, fast, effective relief for your baseball cravings.
My winter baseball withdrawal is under control. Nothing beats seeing a game in person on a warm summer day, but when it is –10 outside, and there is no baseball on TV for another 90 days, MLBTV is sweet. Is Conor Jackson better than Hanley Ramirez? I wonder how Anthony Reyes looks? Gotta go.