Pitchers and catchers report, kicking off the season of hope for all MLB fans
Don't let anyone tell you that your team can't win it all with pitchers and catchers reporting
Every spring I find a way to quote Andy and Red from “The Shawshank Redemption” -- hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. It’s so true in so many facets of life, but I write about baseball so this is how I apply it:
When pitchers and catchers report to camp, every fan base in Major League Baseball has a clean slate for the year.
Perhaps no time in the past five years has it been more evident. Let’s consider what we’ve seen:
Both the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles were expected by pretty much the entire baseball-writing world to finish in last place. Even many fans of those teams were heading into the season with low expectations. Each team would make the playoffs.
Since moving to Washington, D.C., the Washington Nationals had never posted a winning record. They surely entered the season cautiously optimistic, but would win an MLB-best 98 games.
The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the season with 20 straight losing seasons, the longest streak in major professional sports history. They flirted with breaking the streak the previous season, but fell apart down the stretch. Surely the mood of opposing fans in spring training toward any Pirates fan optimism was met with a scoff and/or laugh. Instead, the Pirates won 94 games the NL wild card in thrilling fashion. Streak over.
Also, the 2012 Boston Red Sox finished in last place but the 2013 Red Sox won the World Series.
Sure, the Pirates’ streak was over, but the Kansas City Royals carried an even longer playoff drought into 2013. Those Royals won 86 games, their most since 1989, but still missed the playoffs again. It had been every year since 1985 for the Kansas City fans and many still believed heading into 2014 they weren’t quite there.
Instead, the season brought an epic run to the World Series, starting in the postseason with an extra-inning wild-card victory.
Those same Royals fans got to hear from a lot of people heading into 2015 that their run the previous year was a fluke. Instead, a World Series title was the result.
Further, the Chicago Cubs went from 72 to 97 wins and a run to the NLCS. The Houston Astros went from 70 to 86 wins and a run to the ALDS. The New York Mets returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and the World Series for the first time since 2000.
And the Toronto Blue Jays broke the longest remaining playoff drought in baseball, getting to the ALCS.
Let’s not forget about the Cleveland Indians making a run to the World Series for the first time since 1997, even with plenty of major injuries along the way. The main course, though ...
C’mon. The Cubs won the World Series.
How many times all year did Cubs fans have to hear some derivative of “they won’t win because they are the Cubs” or “how will the Cubs screw it up this time?”
That’s over now.
So what does 2017 bring us?
The Indians getting over the hump and breaking the now-longest World Series championship drought in the majors? Will the Tampa Bay Rays , Colorado Rockies , Seattle Mariners , Milwaukee Brewers , San Diego Padres , Nationals, Astros or Texas Rangers win the World Series for the first time? The Pirates haven’t won a pennant since 1979, the longest drought in baseball, so maybe they get it done? Teams like the Cincinnati Reds , Philadelphia Phillies , Atlanta Braves , Minnesota Twins , Arizona Diamondbacks , Athletics, Chicago White Sox and several others aren’t expected to be very good, but why not a surprising run to the playoffs?
We’ve seen lots of things like the above paragraph happen in the past five years.
Hope springs eternal when pitchers and catchers report. If someone is telling you that your team is going to suck this year, screw ‘em. Unexpected things happen and futility streaks are broken on the reg these days.
Hope is a good thing -- maybe even the best of things. Just ask Red. He learned, after initially saying it was dangerous. Cubs fans learned last season, just as Royals fans did the previous two years. Whose turn might it be in 2017?
Hope away. Spring training is here..