By Joseph Beyda
Thirteen months ago, I set a timer on my phone. It wasn’t reminding me to move my laundry over to the dryer and it wasn’t telling me that my time was up for that CS 107 practice final. It was a countdown to the start of the next NHL season, one that I started just minutes after the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs.
As it turned out, that countdown ran four months later than expected due to the lockout that shortened the 2012-13 hockey season. But even with that bad omen in mind, I set another timer this Wednesday morning once I had healed from San Jose’s elimination in game seven of its second-round series on Tuesday night.
For the time being, while I store my Sharks shirts in dark drawers where they will be kept out of sight — and, more importantly, out of mind — until October, it’s finally time to turn to my summer sporting pastime: Giants baseball.
I’m joining the MLB season late, however. The season is already almost a third of the way over, and although I looked up the highlights whenever I heard that the Giants had won with an exciting walk-off the night before, I still can’t tell you squat about whether Tim Lincecum has bounced back from his disastrous 2012 campaign, whether Buster Posey has a chance to defend his National League MVP crown or whether Pablo Sandoval looks any less rotund on the base paths.
I consider myself an informed, passionate fan of both the Sharks and Giants, but needless to say, no timer was set for baseball’s Opening Day. That’s in spite of the fact that I get all giddy over the first few Sharks games of the year when they fall right in the heart of the Stanford football campaign. Baseball just doesn’t pull my attention away from the rest of the world like hockey does.
Three weeks ago, Sam “Football Frenzied” Fisher wrote that the NHL and NBA postseasons are too lengthy. I’d argue that the MLB regular season is actually too long, at least from the fans’ point of view.
I do think that the MLB needs a 162-game season; since even the best teams in the league win less than two-thirds of the time, you need that many games to create any separation in the standings. But that means there’s hardly any drama over the first 100 games of the season — and there’s especially little intrigue over the first 50 contests, the ones I’ve missed this year and miss just about every year that my Sharks are in the playoffs. As of Wednesday morning, I discovered that the Giants, true to form, have a -2 run differential through 52 games and are still just two games out of a playoff spot. Not only is that start unremarkable, but in two days the Giants could be back to square one in the playoff race. What have I missed?
There are at least two groups of fans out there that will disagree with me: the fantasy nuts who have been tracking every MLB player and their bowel movements since Opening Day, and the baseball purists who would rather watch a game on a two-inch handheld TV than take a week-long Hawaiian vacation. But for those of us who like to flip on our hometown team through those lazy summer nights, what motivation is there to tune in to a meaningless early-season game while the NHL and NBA playoffs rage on around us?
I know that baseball can still have its momentary suspense. Last weekend, Angel Pagan hit a two-run, inside-the-park, walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth inning to give San Francisco a win, marking the first inside-the-park walk-off in the league in nine years — and the first for the Giants since 1931.
But that’s not all I’m looking for. I want the day-to-day excitement of a playoff race; I want some reason to believe that this game I’m watching will mean just as much tomorrow as it did today. In the MLB, that doesn’t arrive until the last two months of the regular season.
My timer is set for September 1.
Joseph “Hockey Whore” Beyda is still noticeably upset over the shortened Sharks season and is taking it out on the MLB. Let him know on which side you stand at jbeyda “at” stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @DailyJBeyda.