March Madness is almost over, and the NBA playoff race is heating up. That can only mean one thing: Major League Baseball is about to get underway.
The MLB owns the longest regular season in American sports in terms of total games. By the time it finishes in late October, the sports world could be a very different place. The NFL, and there will be one in some form, will still be the most popular league around, but who knows exactly what it will look like and how many games might get cancelled. The NBA has lockout problems of its own to face after this season, but with the amount of money at stake, it’s also likely to be around in some form.
Baseball doesn’t have to worry about that, at least for another great season, with a collective bargaining agreement in place until December. With the recent equity in MLB labor negotiations, expect another quiet renewal by then.
Opening Day means something different for sports fans. The marathon MLB season begins today and with it, the specifics peculiar to professional baseball — the extra-inning nights, away-game road trips and doubleheaders we’ve come to love.
These traditions sustain the MLB.
With 169 regular season games, the most important statistics in baseball are averages. Hitting a baseball isn’t nearly as important as sustaining a level of consistency over six months, and allowing a base-clearing grand slam hurts but in the long term means little if you can keep your earned runs low.
You see it in baseball fans too, who are some of the most dedicated in sports.
That’s because professional baseball requires a special type of endurance. That endurance breeds a certain type of competitor.
You can’t be a selfish baseball player and expect to find success. It just doesn’t work that way.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. It might be better to say you can’t be a selfish baseball player, expect to find success and have an untarnished legacy. See Jose Canseco, the recently embattled Barry Bonds or Pete Rose. Baseball means buying in for the long haul. You don’t play 169 games each season for yourself.
Yes, auto racing and golf take place nearly year round, but their major contests are spaced out in order to highlight the individual achievements of their athletes. And sure, professional poker is technically a full-time gig, but the grind of card playing makes running a 90-foot base path look like an Ironman competition.
Major League Baseball is a sport that sometimes looks like a chore. Boredom sets in and the scoreless innings can seem tedious, the stranded runners agonizing reminders of what runs used to look like. Then, a one-out shot to left field just makes it over the left-field wall, and a game is changed. A hero is formed.
Baseball is all about the anticipation. Dear MLB fans, the wait is over.