April Is the Cruellest Month

[Glad am I, Roger Angell, to join thee in thy noble enterprise. Glad, and thrilled, and humbled. To finally be logged on, after all this time; and to be asked to contribute to a 'blog by my good friend Peter Gammons...well, it is humbling, and unnerving, and enriching. I shall endeavor -- much like LaTroy Hawkins -- not to humiliate myself overmuch. ]

Let us speak of the new season; O the short-haired joy of spring, the renewal that sleeps deep within us all! O those ivory boys! those bronze and mahogany and ebon men, the ones in the funny pants with the antiquated stirrups, the ones who hold the sticks of thunder, wield the tawny mittens, grip tightly the tightly-wound spheroid of cow! There are wonders in this game, and in each new year. Let us explore some of them, so far.

First, we alight in the Bronx. Under the watchful eagle's gaze of his caudillo, George Steinbrenner, less a man than a stern father figure or, verily a god, a very miracle occurs: Alex Rodriguez, or "A-Rod," propelling three home runs into the forgiving blue-blackness that is Yankee Stadium's bleachers . Can there be any denying that there is still some magic left in the old girl? (By old girl, of course, I mean Yankee Stadium, not Alex Rodriguez.)

But he is an old story, this Rodriguez of the big money, of the ill-conceived slap, of the asinine nickname. Let us talk of the new and surprising gods: Clint Barmes? Brian Roberts? These are names known only by the statheads, the nerd patrol, the geek squad -- by which, of course, I mean a wonderful group of men, of which I am a proud member. Every year, some new young turks jump up for a stunning April, perhaps meandering into May, only to come crashing down to Earth, Icarus-like, their waxy wings clipped by the cruellest joke of all: the regression to the mean.

I know it all, and I love it all, friends and enemies, my brothers and sisters in the struggle; that is my blessing and my curse. I am like the Watcher in the comick books: I can watch, but I am constrained from doing anything to affect outcomes. When I see the Cincinnati Redlegs trotting out that aged (but still so young!) workhorse Ken Griffey, Junior, keeping their pact with long-suffering fans but condemning that young sweaty firebrand monikered Wily Mo Pena to more time on the pines, my crazy heart weeps anew. But do anything about it, I cannot. I must leave that to those new gods of the noble sport, the Epsteins, the Podestas, the Beanes and Melvins and Minayas.

And there are one million storylines to explore, too many in fact: the redemption of Milton Bradley! the insouciant dominance of the new pitching breed, especially the exuberantly talented Dontrelle Willis -- but will he be a hothouse flower once more? -- and the surly humility of Johan Santana! O America, yea, verily, you do not deserve this pastime, even as faded and irrelevant as it has become!

----Okay, I'm Audi 5000. Catch you on the flip-flop. Gammons, you're buying.


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