Spring is in the air!
Is it the weather? No, not really — New York's been experiencing the kind of weather one would normally expect to find in a videogame this winter, making such judgments utterly unreliable. (It was 49 degrees today, which pretty much ensures it'll be 29 tomorrow.)
Is it that the Super Bowl is a week from tonight? Well, kind of — everyone knows the Super Bowl exists primarily to reassure baseball fans that, yes, pitchers and catchers will soon report, and maybe they should reconsider clambering up the ladder with a noose. But while the Super Bowl marks the end of football, it isn't immediately followed by the beginning of baseball.
Is it the World Baseball Classic? Meh. I know when it actually arrives I'll be watching every minute, but in January and February that's true of winter-ball telecasts in which I can't understand the language, “The Bad News Bears Go to Japan” and most anything else that might include the sight of ball hitting bat, provided it isn't on YES or doesn't involve Fran Healy. I know I should get behind the WBC, but I can't help thinking I'd rather have those pitches it will demand from Pedro's arm in September, and the fact that there's an 0.00001% chance of David Wright getting Ray Fosse'ed makes me think it's perfectly obvious that no Met should play. (Yes, I am crazy, potentially unpatriotic and viewing this in a reprehensibly Steinbrenneresque manner. I'm also now frantically knocking wood for that Wright comment.)
No, I sense spring because of two happy discoveries. One came poring over the spring-training calendar; the other is right there on the regular one.
The Mets will play 30 spring-training games (not counting split-squad affairs and the possibility of shellacking, say, Hofstra for no apparent reason) and 18 of them will be on the air in one form or another — 11 on SNY and seven on the FAN. That sent me to my 2005 appointment book, ready to trumpet the fact that we're getting a much bigger slate of games than last year. Except we aren't: Last year there were 32 games, 16 of which were on some form of air. Five were on the radio and 11 were on one TV station or the other. So much for memory. (Obligatory caveat: The above paragraph combined Jason and math, meaning it's almost certainly wrong.)
Last year, though, we finished up in Florida with little to see: My old appointment book shows a televised game on March 27 and then nothing until April 1 — followed by nothing on April 2 and a final televised exhibition on April 3. (A day later Braden Looper would give us a teaser of his 2005 season with that appalling gag job in Cincy.) This year we should get to see the team come together in the final week: The Mets are off on March 20, and every game after that except the final exhibition (on April Fool's Day) is on — nine on SNY, two on the radio.
(Now all we need is for SNY to rethink this being so damned even-handed about covering all New York sports. At the very least, let's not sully the Land o' Mets with a bunch of Yankee doings. I don't care if Derek Jeter hits nine home runs, discovers cold fusion and forges nonproliferation agreements with Iran and North Korea — I don't want to know about it. If SNY must admit the presence of that other team, how about a Reverse Mrs. Payson approach: If there's a Yankee on my set, it means they lost, Steinbrenner sicced a German shepherd on poor Brian Cashman or somebody got nailed for steroids. But then I wanted to call it the NO network.)
Enough TV talk — 2006 has a wonderful harbinger of baseball season that'll be on everybody's calendar. Daylight savings time begins on Sunday, April 2 this year — and Opening Day is Monday, April 3. Which is so obviously the way the world ought to work that it leaves me with a basic question: Why haven't they done it this way every year? I mean, what's the point of extra daylight if it's not used for playing baseball?