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Thursday, May 26, 2022
Spring baseball spurs October dreams

Todd Stevens

Spring baseball spurs October dreams

Spring training is filled with hope, and hope is a wonderful feeling. I say that as someone who identifies as the most hardcore cynic this side of Snake Plissken. In 2008, I would listen to President Barack Obama talk about hope and change, and it would go in one ear, out the other, then get crushed to death by a panda-killing oil tycoon.

But generally, that cynicism only applies to real life —you know, things that matter. Like who will be our next president or whether I will get into a good law school or if anybody besides my editor will ever read this column.

That's where baseball comes in. In the grand scheme of things, sports don't mean anything. And that is spectacular, because you can then make them mean everything with no repercussions. It's what makes this time of the year great. Because right now, hope springs eternal, and there is nothing anybody can say to change that.

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Let's take my designated baseball allegiance, the Minnesota Twins, and use them for an example. Right now, their ace is Carl Pavano. That sounds like a joke that Tony Kornheiser would use in a ""Pardon the Interruption"" cold open. Second in the rotation is Francisco Liriano, a pitcher with an absolutely mindbending slider, but who can be a similarly mindbending head case.

The Twins' biggest offseason acquisition was Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who, granted, has a pretty good stat line for the Chiba Lotte Marines. But the last infielder the Twins signed from a Japanese league was Tony Batista, who spent two whole months with the team before being designated for assignment.

Then there are questions about whether third baseman Danny Valencia can continue his Rookie of the Year-caliber play from last year, if Joe Mauer's knees will suddenly explode in the middle of a game and how Justin Morneau will recover from the infinite concussion he suffered last summer

I care about none of this, because right now, I am 100 percent convinced that the Twins will lock up the American League Central in their September homestand against the Chicago White Sox, face the Yankees in the ALDS and sweep them for a change, roll through whatever unfortunate opponent wins the AL West and bring home the World Series trophy a week later.

It's the same kind of anticipation people feel when watching the NFL Draft, only less nerdy and with considerably less Mel Kiper Jr. At the beginning of every baseball season every team (excluding the Pirates) is an unproven commodity with infinite upside, as teams like the Rays and the Marlins have proven.

Of course, this is true for many sports, but baseball allows fans to tap into a child-like sense of wonder that no other sport captures nearly as well. Football will never have its own ""Field of Dreams,"" because baseball is the only sport where its fans' affection provides something matching the level of mysticism.

This is what life is for every team at spring training. Brewers fans can hope Zack Greinke's rib heals quickly and that he never plays pickup basketball ever again. Phillies fans currently believe they have the greatest pitching staff in the history of man. And for a brief moment, Cubs fans can think that maybe, just maybe, God won't hate them this year.

Meanwhile, I will be spending the next week playing out my ideal storybook ending for the Twins over and over in my head, as Jim Thome nails a 3-2 pitch over the Target Field fence for a walk-off game seven home run in the World Series. Because every time Thome hits a homer for the Twins, a White Sox fan screams in agony, which is just as good as an angel getting its wings.

God loving the Cubs? The Twins beating the Yankees? Is Todd delusional? E-mail him with your thoughts at ststevens@dailycardinal.com.

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