November 2005

Countdown to Winter Haven!

   Those of us who hail from the hearty Midwest enjoy the change of seasons.  As much as we complain about Winter we all secretly look forward to snow storms in December.  Its the snow storms in March that absolutely drain the life out of us.  Spring reminds us that there is always a light at the end of Winter’s long dark tunnel and those soft Summer breezes are just around the corner.  My favorite time of year has always been the transition from Summer to Fall.  Maybe its because I know it means the baseball playoffs are near and that high school football has begun.

   Now that I am about to begin my seventh season in the broadcast booth alongside partners Tom Hamilton and Mike Hegan, I realize that baseball people have four very distinct seasons too.  Spring Training, Regular Season, Post Season and the Off-season.

   OrangesThe Off-season is supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation, to unwind from a long, grueling season.  Unfortunately the R&R always gets lost in the shuffle.  You see while most normal folks take care of household projects on weekends (while hopefully listening to the game on the radio in the garage), we put all of those things off until the season is over.  And then it begins.  Cleaning the gutters, basement and garage.  Painting the (insert room(s) here), fixing the washing machine, the leaky faucet and unclogging the drain in the kitchen.  I’ve made so many trips to Home Depot they don’t even ask for my credit card anymore, they’ve memorized the number.

   So I sit here at my computer in the middle of the off-season and I yearn for a much simpler time.  I long for tropical breezes and swaying palm trees.  The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, balls and strikes.  And then it hits me.  I’ll be shoveling alot more snow before I enjoy these things anytime soon.  Besides there is much work to be done by Indians GM Mark Shapiro before we can go to Spring Training.  He’ll be shopping at the winter meetings for a starting pitcher, a right-handed bat and some bullpen help.

   The hot stove is fired-up and free agents are being courted by teams so hungry they will take huge risks by overspending in the hopes that one or two key players can get them into the playoffs.  The Chicago White Sox won the World Series because of their pitching.  So its no surprise that the biggest contracts handed out so far have been for pitching.  BJ Ryan (TOR), Billy Wagner (NYM), Scott Eyre (CHC), Bobby Howry (CHC) and Esteban Loaiza (OAK) signed deals recently for a total of $134.4 million.  The average annual value of those contracts is $7.4 million.

   The money is flying and so too is the snow.  The countdown to Winter Haven is on!