Pitchers and Catchers Day is truly the dumbest day. This cannot be overstated. Like a good baseball sheep, I post something like, “PITCHERS AND CATCHERS ARE REPORTING” on Facebook, collect my millions of likes, and await the afterlife, where I’ll surely get a chance to use Facebook likes as currency in the snack bar. Until then, I’ll sit on social media like a fool, waiting for reporters to tweet pictures of grown men walking across parking lots with duffel bags. Every year.
I’ll do it next year. And it will be fun then, too.
Why is it fun? It’s symbolic, mostly. It’s the groundhog popping out from its burrow and dragging the sun along with it, a reminder that you’re about to be given barbecues and longer days and a few months without everyone sneezing and shivering around you. Baseball runs parallel to all of that, and Pitchers and Catchers Day reminds you. It makes February a good baseball month on its own.
March, however, is clearly the worst baseball month.
This is a tricky thesis to sell, because March is also a baseball month that includes things like this:
Technically, that’s from February, but we’ll use March as a proxy for all exhibition games. And that home run is the kind of moment that might even suck in the attention of an 8-year-old kid who was previously uninterested.
It’s not enough, though. Here is the only way that March is a good baseball month:
- If you’re actually attending a spring training game and sitting in the sun, while us suckers are somewhere cold and going to work
That’s it. That’s the only way March is a good baseball month. If you are one of these people, then March might be the best baseball month. There’s a freedom that comes with not caring about the results. There’s also freedom in day-drinking. Mostly, though, there’s a combined freedom that goes with day-drinking, sitting in the sun, and not caring about anything that’s impossible to beat.
For the rest of us, it’s a sham.
Let us count the ways that March is the worst baseball month.
March is the month when fluffy players are streamlined, new pitches are learned, and new swings lead to better results. March is when your favorite injured player becomes your favorite healthy player, no, seriously, this time for real, just look at him.
March is when some random A-baller who isn’t on the 40-man roster thumps a couple homers and makes you think, “Maybe, just maybe.”
It’s a hideous, Splenda-coated optimism, though, filled with false notes that your brain susses out immediately. You know it means nothing. You know that for every surprising development that’s sustained in the regular season, there are 30 that you’ll never think about again. You build this knowledge into how you approach the whole month, too. It’s why you don’t care about wins and losses. It’s why you don’t even bother looking at Grapefruit League standings before you make your predictions for the season.
You’re listening to a bass player screwing around in rehearsal and pretending that you know what the new album is going to sound like.
Meaningless games that go on for an entire damned month
It’s cute at first. I enjoy watching Parm Godbrooks, the kid with a 99-mph fastball who pitched in Cheyenne last year, pitch the ninth inning from a low-resolution single-camera feed from behind home plate. The first time.
By the middle of March, you don’t even get that. The most interesting prospects are reassigned to minor-league camp, and you’re left with the barrel of NRIs and veterans with no chance to make the roster. Your favorite pitchers will throw four innings because nothing matters. Your favorite hitters will get the day off, or they won’t make the trip because nothing matters.
And there are still two weeks to go.
Dreams will be crushed
This is the most important one. Last year, the Diamondbacks were feeling froggy, all hopped up on a deliriously active offseason. They had a new ace, stolen from a division rival, and they were going to contend.
Then one of their best players broke. It was too early to say their season was ruined, but it wasn’t too early to worry that their season was ruined*.
* Their season was ruined
There will be an injury in the next four weeks that will ruin a season. It’s like all 30 teams are watching a hacky magician perform and terrified that he’ll call on them to be a part of his stupid act, except with ligaments and bones. He’ll call on one of those teams and then saw them in half. I will workshop this analogy before publishing.
And these injuries all come in the service of meaningless games. You couldn’t even enjoy what led up to the injury.
The month after is a hellscape of not knowing what to think, too
Not nearly as awful as the last one, but still important enough to note. You spend a month not knowing what to make of your team. Are they good? Are they bad? Is (player) going to rebound from his lost season, or is (other player) going to be so amazing that it doesn’t matter? You can’t tell, and the information you’re presented is just noise until the season starts.
Then the season starts. Guess what? That’s also noise. You still can’t tell anything. Is your team good? Maybe! Are they bad? Maybe! It’s a different kind of uncertainty, to be sure, but it’s a drag to have it after Uncertainty Appreciation Month.
On the other hand:
Let’s rank baseball months, then, and get to the bottom of this.
Every team is still playing. The games are meaningful enough to plan your night around a Nationals/Mets game or some nonsense, unless you’re a Nationals or Mets fan, in which case you’re planning your night around a Giants/Dodgers game (assuming your team is off or just finished a day game.)
The bad teams get to watch fresh rookies and prospects. The good teams are knifing each other. This is easily the best baseball month.
It loses the top slot because just a third of the teams are playing, but it’s the best baseball month for fans in terms of everyone paying attention to the same thing at the same time. It’s nice to have a month of baseball like that.
Trade deadline and All-Star Game. The games have an urgency that the previous three months lacked, too. This is an exceptional baseball month.
Meaningful games. The contending teams get to show off their trade deadline acquisitions. There’s still a full slate of minor-league baseball to pay attention to.
Opening Day. Games that mean something. Opening Day.
Most importantly, though, Opening Day.
The weather is swell. The games mean more than April and May. There’s a draft, which is fun for a night. Baseball becomes the only major North American sport going. June is an exceptional baseball month, as well.
It has real games, but you’re still not sure what to make of them. Random utility players are still hitting .370, and you have to pay attention to them now, even if you know they won’t stay hot for long.
Still, real games. Good baseball month.
Not a bad baseball month! The Winter Meetings are delightful nonsense. If you’re going into withdrawal, there is probably a Venezuelan League final you can watch. There are holidays mixed in, which helps keep your mind off the lack of baseball.
Look, you need a break. The baseball season is a grind, and it doesn’t hurt to have three free hours every night. Introduce yourself to your kids. Hello, kids! My, how you’ve grown! How resentful you’ve become! And how you’ve grown!
Pitchers and Catchers Day. You can pretend that you’re going to enjoy the next month of meaningless baseball. Your baseball annuals like Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America Prospect Handbook start arriving.
Also, it’s a very short month.
There’s still a hot stove league, at least. There are still deals to sign and trades to make. Rosters are being finalized. It’s the perfect lack of baseball, which makes you appreciate baseball even more when it arrives. How can you appreciate the warmth without experiencing the cold first? It’s an exercise in contrasts, really.
Okay, fine, this is probably the worst baseball month, but no one is going to click on “March is the second-worst baseball month.”
See the above. It’s like being in prison, separated from the love of your life, for five months, and flying home to reunite, and — look! — there they are, you can see them from the window of the airplane! They’re waving, you’re waving, tears are streaming down your face, and the captain announces that mechanical problems are preventing them from opening the doors.
This lasts for a month, but there’s enough airplane food to keep you alive.
There will be highlights. There will be just enough baseball-related activities to spread on your stale bread that you can pretend it’s a deli sandwich.
It’s a bad baseball month, though.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch some baseball and invalidate my own thesis in about five seconds. Thanks for reading.