Thursday, January 12, 2006

Something to think about

So we've hit it. The most depressing time of the year for baseball. The hot stove has basically cooled off and we're still a little too far from spring training to feel like the season is upon us. The hall of fame voting has been announced, leaving very little to discuss or think about for another month. This, of course, is great for an idiot like myself who chose to begin a blog in mid-December with a vow never to miss a day of posting.

What is most depressing about this time of year for me is a look at the free agent list. By this time of year the remaining free agents can be classified into three categories. Most are the players who aren't stars, never were stars, never will be stars, and when and with with whom they sign is largely a footnote, to be noticed by only the most serious fans. We'll call this the Denny Hocking team. Then you have the decent players whose agents seem to have miscalculated and overplayed their hands, leaving their players on the market for too long. We'll call this the Bengie Molina team. But it's the third category that is most depressing. That's the "faded glory" team. Mike Piazza. Frank Thomas. Sammy Sosa. Rafael Palmeiro. Juan Gonzalez. These are names that not too long ago would have dominated the free agent market and hot stove talk. Now they actually might have to sign minor league deals (at least that's what Jim Bowden claims the Nats have offered Sosa).

When I think about it, I don't think I'm depressed for the actual players. They've made a ton of money in this sport, been cheered nationwide, could be headed to the hall of fame, and should be happy. An athlete's run has to end sometime. No, I think I'm really depressed for myself. I think, "Was it really that long ago that the Mets signed Piazza and I was so excited? Am I getting that old?" The decline of these players signals the inexorable march of time (tired literary cliche alert!!!). The evolution of Frank Thomas' career has taken me from a 2nd grader who used to walk around with his radio and headphones on family outings so as not to miss a Mets game to a 2nd year law student. Seeing him languishing on the free agent list in mid-January with Jeffrey Hammonds reminds me that I'm getting older too. And I realize that it won't be so long before I turn around and Albert Pujols is in the same spot in 10 or 15 years. I certainly hope and expect that we will all have aged for the better, and that we'll be very content with our lives at that time. But it's kind of scary just how quickly it all starts to move.


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