The story is the same every year. From the moment the final out of the World Series is recorded, baseball fans across the country resume their everyday lives assuming that it will be several months before baseball news is seen in headlines again. After all, many of these fans are ready for a break after following a 162-game season spanning from April to November. There’s just one problem: Baseball has no off-season.
This year, the so-called “Off-season” began especially early. Why? Because the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers were the final two teams remaining in the postseason. Not too many people care about a team that hadn’t won a WS Title since 1954 and a team that hadn’t even won a playoff series before this year. This was evidenced by the terrible ratings that the 2010 World Series received. The Giants and Rangers were two of baseball’s most unlikely overachievers, stealing the spotlight with authority and preventing what was perfectly lined up to be a Phillies-Yankees rematch. Accordingly, the majority of fans turned their focus elsewhere about two weeks ago.
Other than the most passionate and committed fans, I’m willing to bet that most don’t follow their teams all year long, certainly not on a day to day basis. At the conclusion of every October, Major League Baseball takes a back seat to the likes of the NFL, NBA, and NHL. Obviously, it would be hard to expect baseball, when it’s not in its prime playing season, to compete with or take priority over the other three major sports. However, is it too much to ask baseball fans to stick with America’s pastime during the winter and at least follow team and league news semi-regularly?
The difficult part of this argument is convincing fans that reading about baseball during the “Off-season” is worth their time. Believe it or not, there are more than a few noteworthy MLB moves made while football and basketball and hockey are in full swing. While many players may be off on a relaxing vacation with friends and family, the organizations they play for are buzzing with action. The “Off-season” is precisely the time when owners and general managers make their money.
In some cases (Like almost every Yankees Off-season), you could argue that the “Off-season” is just as exciting and important as the regular season. From critical acquisitions and losses via free agency to financial management and hirings/firings, the future success of each individual organization is on the line. Essentially, the decisions made throughout this process are the first steps towards achieving the dream of winning it all.
As the cold winter months begin moving in, the temperature of baseball’s hot stove continues to increase. With decisions to be made about several big-name free agents such as Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Derek Jeter, potential destinations for these players are being tossed around constantly. The thrill of following MLB rumors and waiting to see what your team will do to improve is truly amazing.
For Cardinals fans, it has been nearly impossible to ignore the exciting roster/coaching changes that have already been made during this “Off-season.” Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan were re-signed, the Cards picked up Pujols’ 2011 option, and a new bullpen coach was hired. Also, rumors are swirling that several teams may be interested in St Louis’ young star Colby Rasmus. After a disappointing season, there promises to be more changes and transactions in the coming weeks. I don’t know about you, but to me, this sounds like anything but an “Off-season.” The real gift of baseball is that it is a 365 day per year sport, always there to provide something to talk about.
I urge all baseball fans to recognize that the “Off-season” is so much more than some downtime during which players are free to relax away from the diamond while other sports dominate the news. Then, after the final pitch of the every World Series is thrown, you will not be left asking the question “When does spring training start?”