Baseball is underway once again, with its usual perfectly-timed entrance: each new season indelibly tied to gorgeous spring days, a sense of hope eternal paired to the sights and sounds of the ballpark — the crack of the bat, a dog and a drink in the bleachers, the smell of fresh-cut grass on perfectly mowed outfields. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci chugs the whole sentimental Kool Aid down in one gulp:
Opening Day is such a part of Americana that it should be a national holiday … What is Opening Day, after all, but the day not just to dream, but also to believe, that anything is possible?
Well, Tom, I (Ben) want to believe that anything is possible. But I’m a Pirates fan. And crushing reality will soon sink in — by mid-May at the latest, sometimes by late April, occasionally sooner than that. (A quick glance at the preseason standings last week confirmed that, yes, Pittsburgh was 7-21 in exhibition games. SI picked the Pirates to have this season’s worst record. And why wouldn’t you for the team with the league’s lowest payroll at $35 million — about a sixth of the Yankees league-high $206 million, and only $2 million more than Alex Rodriguez alone will earn this year?)
I’m tired of Bud Selig pulling a Lucy and yanking away the football at the last second. Because he of small-market Milwaukee is as responsible as anyone for the enormous disparity in team payrolls caused by the lack of a salary cap. Frank Deford hits it on the head in his NPR commentary:
The reality in baseball — as long as there is no salary cap to equalize things as there is in our other popular team sports — the reality is that the Yankees and a few other rich teams are going to buy championships, while little old mid-major cities really can’t compete. … Sure, quirky things can happen in the playoffs. But at this Opening Day, we are only reminded again that for all baseball’s welter of statistics, it remains a sport without a salary cap — so, ultimately, the only numbers that matter are the ones that follow the dollar sign.
Hear, hear, Frank! And this follows on the heels of his commentary saying what a terrible idea expanding the NCAA field would be for men’s basketball. He speaks the truth, folks.
As for Opening Day, the Buccos beat the Dodgers, 11-5. Garrett Jones hit two home runs. It was Pittsburgh’s fourth straight Opening Day win.
Reason to hope this year might be different for the Pirates? Their payroll is the same as it was in 1992 … the last year Pittsburgh had a winning record.
Here I go hoping again.