Keidel: Baseball Is Our Bedrock In This Rocky World

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

If life is a road, then we look for exciting or comforting mile markers every year. 

Here, in the Big Apple, we circle baseball's opening day as a portal into April, when spring waves its wand over the Northeast, when we can put the cold, snow, and slush in our rearview mirror. Instead of scowling at trucks plowing a wall of muck against your car, you see trees popping with flora. Instead of grim forecasts of frigid weather, you pour over projected starters, run lines, or fantasy lineups. Instead of heavy coats and wool hats, you're ready for baseball caps and leather gloves. 

Today was supposed to be that day, the first day of baseball, when we put down shovels and picked up bats, when the monotone of the weatherman is replaced by the wisdom of Keith Hernandez or Ron Darling or David Cone, breaking down balls and strikes, batters and pitchers, for the next six months. 

If we are creatures of routine, then there's nothing routine about the sports landscape in general, or Major League Baseball in particular. Right now, the owners and players are trying to hammer out a truncated 2020 season, with the bell for opening day to ring in June. They are working on the granular details of games played, games paid, and service time. 

You don't care how the money you spend is chopped up by the bean counters of MLB.  You're not versed in the nuance of labor talks. Why should you be? Our deal with baseball is they keep us entertained through the scalding days of summer, and that for over a century they have provided us a peek into the sunny, verdant days after rotten winters. 

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The Final Four was a good milepost, a bridge between the frost and the fresh smells of outdoor food vendors. The Masters was another segue into spring. They're gone, choked out by COVID-19. Even baseball, which has been immune to wars and storms, has had to play matador to the virus. 

Certain highbrow types don't see the value in sports. They are inessential and tangential to real life. They are, to quote a line from Annie Hall, a bunch of pituitary cases stuffing.a ball through a hoop. It may be a basketball reference, but it speaks to the overall view of some that sports are low-rent entertainment spawned by too much testosterone. They are to be pitied. 

We want, we need our pastime. Especially here, in New York City, where baseball still has one of its final footholds. We want to sing the campy ballads. We want the sweet sounds of a bat cracking a ball, or a fastball pounding a catcher's mitt. We want to see dirt fly while someone dives for a ground ball, leaps, and flings to first base, the ball popping in the glove a nanosecond before the runner's toes tap the bag. We want the sweet smells of hot dogs and mustard and popcorn and, yes, even the bitter smell of spilled beer. 

We want to know if Jacob deGrom can win a third-straight Cy Young. We want to see if Pete Alonso was a one-hit wonder or a sophomore superstar. We want to watch Gerrit Cole throw gas past batters in the Bronx. We want Aaron Judge to get healthy and hearty enough to reclaim his crown as Gotham's best baseball player. 

Some of us have taken baseball for granted. I have. I jumped on the NFL's broad back and rode it for the last 20 years, often at the expense of MLB. If the Yankees or Mets aren't in the playoffs, my small brain embraces football. I joined the crowd that crowed baseball has too many games. Get it back to 154, the number played by the Boys of Summer. We should be shaving, not adding, the number of teams that qualify for October. 

Right now, I'd take all of those arguments and concede them. There's no such thing as too much baseball. This proposed June start jars our ancient sensibilities. Baseball is our bedrock in this rocky world. 

There will be certain signs or stats intended to tell us that we are close to whipping this tornadic virus that's been tearing through us.  They talk about masks and gloves and sanitizer and ventilators, about flattening curves. We'll know we're OK when Alonso or Judge flattens a curveball, sending it soaring into the stands. It will mean baseball is back.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel