Monday was Opening Day for baseball (actually there was one game on Sunday night). Many of the teams played their first real baseball game of the 2009 season. The Red Sox were rained out and the WhiteSox were snowed out (after all it is the beginning of April). It snowed in Buffalo, too, which makes me feel a little better when I look outside at all the snow that has to go before we can play baseball in Kodiak. I watched the Yankees play their home opener in Baltimore. Their new stars they paid big bucks for in the offseason were total busts. But, it is the beginning of April and Texiera will eventually hit a ton and Sabathia will probably earn his keep on the mound (will he be worth 168 million? the same amount as the AIG bonuses?). Seattle got off to a winning start which is a relief after last year's misery. Junior even homered. Opening day is when every team has a chance to be playing in October (and November!). I usually read a baseball book before Opening Day and this year I read Joe Torre's book. It is by Torre but he "writes" it in the third person so Tom Vercducci of Sports Illustrated probably did most of the writing and Torre can say things without actually "saying" them. The best part of the book is the first part when Torre recounts the championship years of the late 90's and early 2000's. There is a painful section reminding us of the steroid era and then there is a section on the last few Yankee seasons when the wheels came off and the Yankees tried to buy a pennant every year. They picked up guys like Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, and Carl Pavano who didn't fit the Yankee mold and upset the clubhouse rhythms. There were other players Torre tolerated, as well, such as David Wells, Giambi, and of course Arod. The players called him Afraud and Torre reports that all Arod wanted to be was the best player in baseball. He could never understand why everyone loved Derek Jeter so much - and hated him - when he had more talent and better stats. Jeter was Torre's guy, the role model for a baseball player. He played hurt; he was a team guy all the way. He was a winner and personal stats did not matter. He was the anti - Arod. Torre would fill a team with Jeters, Cones, Mussinas, Bernie Williams'. Torre hated the way the Yankee front office treated Williams, one of the most underrated of all the Yankees. But in the end they treated Torre the same way. Offering him a pay cut loaded with incentives. Incentives! As if Joe Torre needed incentives to be a winner.
There are so many reasons to become cynical about baseball. The steroids, the prima donna athletes, the outrageous salaries and billion dollar stadiums which translate into ever more expensive seats (there are still some good deals out there if you sit in the bleachers or go to a game in Milwaukee or Kansas City!). But there are still a lot of players, like Jeter, that play the game the way it was meant to be played. And there are lots of places to watch baseball played simply for the love of the game. I just got back from Portland where I watched several college games. Good baseball and not one of the players was getting a scholarship and only one or two had a shot at getting drafted. And there is local baseball. I have a grandson who is finally old enough to play t-ball his year. So I have another chance to watch a game and maybe even coach again. Simple truth is: baseball is only a game but what a great game it is!