Appreciating the entire business of baseball

After a disappointing end to their preseason (further reading on their rained-out finale) and dealing with what ended up being a very long rainstorm (serious flooding hit a good portion of the area), the Yankees hopped on board their plane and headed 792 miles west (or about 2 hours flying time) to Houston. On a rest day yesterday, a whole bunch of them watched Kentucky beat the favorite Michigan for a spot in the Final Four (sports is sports, people). And then, they spent today working out as a team, taking batting practice, fielding questions from lingering reporters, and generally getting back into the swing of things before their Opening Day tomorrow.

About half of MLB played their first game today (and two NL West teams got a head start in Australia about 10 days ago), and the rest will begin tomorrow. These first 8 days of the season are scattered with home openers all across North America, filled with red-white-and-blue bunting, fireworks, celebrity anthem singers and first pitches, and fans everywhere hoping that this year will be their team’s year for victory. Of course, as we all know, only one fan base will turn out to be right.

Of course, Yankees this year get to watch yet another retirement parade for another of their long-term heroes. Derek Jeter has an inkling of what’s coming because of Rivera’s 2013 barrage of gifts and honors, though Jeter admittedly wasn’t present for most of the ceremonies due to his own injury-plagued season. But no doubt, his honors and gifts and celebrations will be no less of an ordeal, and every home game will feature cheering fans glimpsing for one last moment of the Captain’s playing days.

In the meantime, there is a whole season to be played ahead of us. And for a brief moment in time, anything is possible for any of the 30 teams in baseball. Which means that even after last year’s disappointing season, Yankee fans can start fresh and root for that 28th (and what could be Jeter’s final) championship. Because right now, it’s still very much a possibility. And why not? Jeter started his career with a win. So what could be a more fairy tale ending to his storied career?

But alas, it’s a long season…

And there are 24 other players on the team who are dreaming of that championship. There’s still a few moves to be made, and a final roster won’t be available until Tuesday, or so I’m told. Before they jumped on a plane, the final infield spot on the 40-man Eduardo Nunez and Yangervis Solarte. While Nunez was pulled into the office to be told he was being sent down to AAA (after a disappointing Spring), Solarte thought he was through and asked Jeter to sign a ball and began his goodbyes, when Nunez came out to inform him of the news. I don’t think Solarte has come down off Cloud Nine yet.

Now what all this means for the roster, and where everyone ends up, I still have no idea. They are keeping things pretty tight to the vest right now, which could mean anything. The posted rosters on the Yankees website aren’t really updated yet either because Cashman & Co. are up to something. And it wouldn’t be the start of the Yankees year without something lurking in the works right before the season starts.

It’s funny. Before I started this blog, I never really thought much about the business side of baseball. I mean, there was the transactions and trades, the profits and contracts, and the logistics of baseball operations, all of which even the average baseball fan has some kind of opinion. But I never really dove into each of those areas, until this blog kind of forced it on me.

I was talking with someone today about the recent history of baseball, how it’s evolved over the last 20 years, and what options the sport has in the future to capture the next generation of season ticket holders. What I noticed was that I was conversing more on the business side of the sport rather than as the average fan and wanting to see “my team” win. Now, this was after overhearing a rather interesting conversation at breakfast between two average fans who were convinced they knew how each of their teams were going to win this year’s championship. (Their conclusions, by the way, were based on last year’s team, without recognizing new pitching or trades that affect the offensive production. If either of their teams win, it won’t be for the reasons they were talking about.)

It’s true I think about baseball a lot, probably more than my “average baseball fan” friends think I should or care to listen to me talk about. But this is what I do, so it’s how I’ve come to think. I’ve always been someone who likes the big picture strategy first and then loves putting together all the pieces to make it not just function, but succeed efficiently and excellently (much like the Yankees). And this blog has helped me fine-tune that for baseball in general, and the Yankees specifically. My grandfather called baseball a “thinking man’s game”, and that may be why I don’t ever seem to be bored with the game. Because when you peel back the layer of the game that is the actual 3 hours of playing time, there are hundreds of hours spent and hundreds of people working to get those 25 men on the field, in the bullpen, and in the dugout. And that makes me appreciate the sport of baseball hundreds of times moreover.

So as we embark on yet another season, another time of possibilities and opportunities, I’m sending a personal thank you and note of appreciation out to everyone who works year-round to make this business of baseball into the greatest game America ever played. We may never meet, but you are certainly appreciated.

Go Yankees!

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