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You Are Now Approaching This Season

The Florida Marlins remain no help whatsoever. By not having announced a start time for their Opening Day hosting of the New York Mets at Name Subject To Change Stadium, they did not allow us to calculate precisely when the Baseball Equinox would be upon us. That’s something we look forward to figuring out every winter, yet the Marlins’ perpetual languor robbed us of that small pleasure, much as their latent, late-September competitiveness robbed us of larger pleasures in advance of previous winters. However, because we do know the first game of 2011 will be April 1 — and because the final game of 2010 definitely took place on October 3 — we can say with authority that even though we don’t know when it occurred exactly, we have indeed drifted past the Baseball Equinox, that space on the calendar when we are closer to next season than last season. The blessed event happened sometime yesterday afternoon.

Tangibly speaking, then, Happy New Year.

Of course we’ve been alternately hurtling and schlepping toward the 2011 campaign’s gravitational pull since the morning of October 4, at whichever instant word seeped that the unfortunately linked tenures of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel belonged completely in the past tense. From there, everything became about looking ahead. Who’ll be the next general manager? Who will he choose as manager? Those overarching questions have long been answered — and, I might add, with more definitiveness than the Marlins have offered regarding the moment Josh Johnson next peers in toward the general direction of Jose Reyes’s strike zone.

Far less certain is what we can expect from the first team Sandy Alderson organizes and Terry Collins helms. Seems we’re skipping the part that includes enticing new acquisitions, which is where the hurtling slows into schlepping and I have to rub two sticks together to maintain a spark of anything more than perfunctory excitement over the emergence of the upcoming season. Yes, Alderson’s the man with a plan; and the plan, in its broadest, faintest strokes, is implicitly contingent on decrappifying the 40-man roster of its most onerous commitments; and perhaps as soon as the recording of the final out of September 28 — Closing Day 2011 — we will be hurtling in earnest toward quantifiably brighter years than the last couple we’ve lived through.

This year (like all years before they begin) is an unknown quantity, though relying on the same basic 79-83 bunch to exceed .500 seems a surefire prescription for disappointment. On January 2, disappointing baseball beats none at all, but once the euphoria attached to Opening Day on April 1 and the Home Opener on April 8 dissipates, all we can do is watch and see. We’ll watch and see if a full year of a healed Carlos Beltran compensates for the several months we’ll likely be missing Johan Santana; if Jason Bay’s clear head makes up for a bullpen quietly cleared of dependable lefthanders [1]; if a developing Josh Thole generates more impact than a lingering Luis Castillo depletes energy; if there’s anything at all to be found within a returning Daniel Murphy or an arriving Chin-lung Hu [2].

St. Lucie beckons soon enough. Not that Spring Training will tell us anything provable, but at least it will distract us for a few weeks. After that, there’s the actual season, when we stand an excellent chance of being pleasantly surprised. Or dourly dismayed. Or something in between.

Which sounds not altogether unlike 2010, but we don’t know that yet. We don’t know anything at all about that which won’t do us the courtesy of transpiring before it’s damn well ready to get rolling. Perhaps the new GM really does know more about our Met future than we can possibly grasp, and if that doesn’t make 2011 a certifiably happier year in the standings, I suppose it could signal 2012 as truly worthy of our salivation. Still, I don’t want to write off the year that just got here just so we can move on to the next. Thirty-two hours into 2011 and eighty-nine days from its first pitch, it’s immensely unsatisfying to think in those terms.

I used to get psyched about the approach of a new season. Lately I just brace for it. Maybe that will change between now and April 1. Maybe the Marlins will tell us what time we need to tune in before then. Once we are so informed, I’m going to watch and see.

That much I do know.