At some point this spring or summer, after somewhere between three and four hours of baseball, a Yankees-Red Sox game is going to come down to the ninth inning — mostly because that always seems to happen.
Craig Kimbrel will be on the mound for the Red Sox, and Giancarlo Stanton will be at bat for the Yankees.
I’ll be at home, the game on TV, doing some combination of sitting on the edge of my couch/pacing around the room/standing and staring/whatever seems to be lucky or not unlucky.
And in that moment, the only thing that will matter is whether Stanton gets Kimbrel, or Kimbrel gets Stanton.
And while it will go away — I have a life to lead after all, regardless of who wins — that moment will determine how I feel for between the next several minutes and hours.
Baseball has a way of doing that to you, even if it isn’t always the big star getting the big hit.
Why is a truck leaving for Florida so exciting?
Why is “pitchers and catchers” one of the greatest three-word phrases in the English language?
Why will I be so excited to get an email in the next few weeks telling me that my credit card has been charged the $115 or whatever it is to renew my MLB.TV again this year?
Why did my grandfather’s obituary note that he was “an avid New York Yankees fan”?
Why did his son, my uncle, and I have a conversation about whether we’d follow our favorite player into a bathroom, and why is he so passionate about his favorite player, Mickey Mantle, that he doesn’t like Clint Frazier based on a debunked story about Frazier asking if he could wear No. 7?
Why, when my wife and I talk about a long weekend in New York City this spring or summer, it’s about catching a play and a Yankees game?
Why, if we do make it to Chicago this year (it has been our “almost vacation” for several years now) will I try to find a week that the Cubs are home so I can go to Wrigley Field?
Because it’s baseball, that’s why.
So why baseball (or any other sport, for that matter, but let’s stick with baseball)?
There could be various reasons — something as meaningful as family connections to something as simple as you played it as a kid or saw it on TV and liked it.
But for whatever reason, that passion is why we buy the tickets, watch on TV, pick up the gear and argue about it with anyone who will listen.
But it all comes back to the same factor — the players.
Because I can’t help myself, I pulled myself into discussions online about the great free-agent freeze of 2017 and 2018, when seemingly every team has fully embraced the values of common sense … because it clearly isn’t collusion, right?
And while I certainly understand the value of common sense — I wouldn’t want to be paying Robinson Cano $24 million when he’s 40 — I don’t begrudge anyone for making all the money they can.
Sure, the league minimum is more than I’ll make in the next 10 years, and it’s hard to think of Kris Bryant as being “underpaid” at $10.85 million this season (although relative to the kind of player he is and salaries in the game, he is).
But guys like him or Stanton or Aaron Judge or Manny Machado or Clayton Kershaw or a utility infielder who gets the biggest hit of his life out of nowhere who keep me and millions of other people coming back, every day and every night, every year.