Masters and baseball opening in the same week is common, but it’s almost too much spring at once. I can’t appreciate either one properly.
Truthfully, once baseball’s opening day has passed, the real thrill is gone. The sport has almost become an anachronism in the television/Internet era. It does not translate well to television, as it often appears to be nine men standing around waiting for something to happen. Also, the sport is not played against a clock, so there is no strategy to cope, as with basketball’s shot clock or football’s play clock. And don’t you love watching the two-minute play calling in football? Gotta be at the park, especially in daytime, to fully appreciate baseball.
The real strategy in baseball is between the pitcher and hitter. Lots of psychology and plain guessing. A starting pitcher will see a hitter three or four times a game, so the pitcher will have to have a different strategy for the hitter in each at-bat. And the hitter will also be remembering how the pitcher worked him the previous time, trying to look for a new approach. And the good hitters such as the Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones all seem to spend lots of time in the film room for critique and studying a pitcher’s tendencies.
And speaking of the Atlanta Braves, they look the strongest they have in years. Winning an opener is always good psychology, but the Braves also made a statement in their 16-5 rout of the Cubs: deficits don’t matter. Rookie Jason Heyward’s 400-foot homer in his first at-bat showed that he’s ready for big-league pitching (he laid off two inside pitches before the homer), and there’s plenty of other run production in the lineup, too. That seems to be the new norm in baseball: scoring. The pitching-first approach is not as strong as it once was; thank the designated hitter for that.
The team had its remarkable run of 14 straight division titles that ended in 2005, but it obviously was in decline for many years previously. It has not reached the World Series since ’99, and seemed to lose its aura of invincibility when it lost four straight Series games to the Yankees in ’96 after holding a 2-0 lead.
As for golf’s Super Bowl, the Augusta affair has the added attraction of Tiger Woods’ return to the links. Interesting that he was wearing a hint of goatee after emerging from his off-season turmoil. With his marital situation apparently still up in the air, he may feel the need to project a new image.
Whatever happens, getting back to golf will be the best therapy of all for him. He was a superstar before he ever got married, so he needs to regain his mojo before he can expect to be his true self off the course as well. Remember, too, that he had an excellent 2009 season, so he really has not been away from the sport very long. The extramarital affairs and rehab are a mental ordeal, and golf is a very mental sport. Also, Woods will have everyone talking about golf again, rather than the other stuff. Check this study showing the public’s response.
But he’s still Tiger Woods, the best golfer of his generation. He may not win the 2010 Masters, but he’ll be in top form soon.