Each year, the hot stove burst onto the scene with fans chattering and twittering about the possibilities—how our team could look better, smell better, act better, play better, be better. The momentum of cheering for actual baseball leaks across the margins and, for a few short weeks, we cheer for free agency as if it were baseball. Grady Sizemore re-signed? Fist pump. We took a pass on Josh Willingham? Anger, despair, arguments. There's rumors Michael Brantley will play first base? Go to Snow Days, climb into stands, try to order beer.
Then, at some point around the major Christian holiday, it becomes obvious that all of this is essentially boring and I just want it to end. If you look over there on the sidebar, you'll see the top story on Baseball Nation today is the retirement of Melvin Mora. I understand my faintly outlined responsibilities as a blogger; I do not intend to be subversive. I cannot, however, write seriously about the career of Melvin Mora. I cannot pretend like Melvin's farewell, or more speculation regarding the landing spot of Casey Kotchman, or a recap of Jose Lopez's winter ball statistics, is anything that a reasonable person wants to consider. We are all better off hitting the "Random Article" button on Wikipedia. I just did and I learned this about Hardtner, KS (poplation: 172)—
By 1908 the townspeople had realized that they would need a railroad line to the outside world in order to survive. The town's founder Jacob Achenbach, helped set up a company to build a line east to Kiowa. The line would have to cross the Santa Fe's tracks to link with the Missouri Pacific, the planned connection for Hardtner's line. The Santa Fe's Superintendent was not about to stand for that, so he had his private car block the spot where the lines would cross. A local got word to him that the Hardtner people had about 45 cowboys ready to "riddle his car with bullets" The Superintendent moved his car, and the line was completed.
Is anything that interesting happening this offseason? I doubt it. That doesn't matter, though—we'll sit and wait, like Catholics outside the Vatican searching for smoke, hoping Hoynes or Bastian will throw us a signal:
"White smoke! They've signed Carlos Pena!"
"Dark smoke! Carlos Beltran has nullified his deal with Saint Louis in order to reject Cleveland again and then immediately re-sign with Saint Louis! Curses!"
"Green smoke! Oh my word—they're cooking Cord Phelps! We've got to help!"
Until we see those signals, we'll sit and wait, pretending like anything new we learn will mean half as much to the season as the next point in Asdrubal or Masterson's trajectory. We'll mutter strong words about Carlos Beltran under our breath because it feels more productive than acknowledging we just have to wait and see if Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to hit in the majors. We'll stand guard over Cord Phelps because we like him and, good god, Hoynes looks famished.
The off season churns forward and our Tribe beats on, a boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly not into the past but into the open arms of Ken Rosenthal who whispers, softly, so softly, into our ear—"There are four teams in on Kotchman; Cleveland could be one." We hear it and coo, taking it as a bootleg version of the endorphin we actually want, the one that floods our blood when men climb out of a dugout and hit and field the ball.
63 days until Spring Training.