You've waited for this day for months. It's a reminder of love. It's a reaffirmation of the relationship you've built. It's a day to celebrate all that is good and all that could be better. Hope. Faith. Commitment.
It’s the first day of spring training.
Valentine’s Day? Meh.
Baseball is less likely to break your heart – well, unless you are Chicago Cubs fan.
There really should be greeting cards celebrating the first official spring workout for pitchers and catchers.
Of course, the whole rite is more ceremonial than anything. Most pitchers have been at camp for at least a few days and there are already position players working out.
But still, it’s the idea. It’s the start of spring training and baseball. And that’s never a bad thing – unless you are the St. Louis Cardinals.
Albert Pujols’ self-imposed deadline for a contract extension before spring training is Wednesday. If the Cardinals don’t meet his somewhat lofty demands of a 10-year, $300 million contract, he will play out the season and test the free-agent market.
All reports say the two sides aren’t close in the negotiations. It’s understandable that the Cardinals are a little wary to pay any player – even with Pujols’ talent – $30 million a year until he’s 41.
Pujols is the best hitter in baseball. You can’t blame him for wanting to be paid like it. Heck, he doesn’t even have Scott Boras for an agent.
Who would likely have the money and best ability to meet his demands? That’s the Cardinals’ most hated rival – the Chicago Cubs.
But not even this soap opera can detract from the joy of today.
Just look around the leagues.
In the Grapefruit League, the Philadelphia Phillies are rolling out a pitching rotation featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Most people’s fantasy teams won’t have that good of a rotation.
Speaking of fantasy teams, have you looked at the starting lineup for the Boston Red Sox? Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Yankees didn’t have the best offseason. Lee turned down their offer, they didn’t get Zack Greinke, then Alex Rodriguez had his yearly moment where he gets ridiculed for doing something. But don’t think for a second the Bronx Bombers won’t find a way into baseball’s postseason.
Unfortunately, Stephen Strasburg won’t be pitching at Nationals camp, but fear not – last year’s top pick, hard-hitting Bryce Harper, will get the honor of having his every move watched this spring.
Over in the Cactus League, the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants didn’t do much in the offseason and don’t look very intimidating on paper. Come to think of it, they didn’t at the start of spring training last season, either.
The Milwaukee Brewers are better, thanks to the additions of Greinke and Shaun Marcum (and possibly worse, with the addition of ex-Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt). The Cincinnati Reds open the season with legitimate postseason expectations after last season’s unexpected appearance. Plus we get a whole season of Aroldis Chapman’s 103-mph fastballs.
The Rangers are mired in minor drama since they hurt Michael Young’s feelings by signing Adrian Beltre. Young waited his whole career to make the postseason with Texas, and after getting to the World Series, he’d rather leave than be the designated hitter.
But Beltre makes them better defensively, and they signed American League MVP Josh Hamilton to a much-deserved contract extension.
The Oakland A’s might have the best young pitching staff in the AL, led by Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson.
They did a very un-Oakland thing in the offseason: They spent money, adding Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus.
There will be countless stories of players coming into camp in the best shape of their lives. There will be stories about rookies trying to make the big clubs and aging veterans trying to find their youth. There will be position battles. There will be spring training surprises. No cliché will go unsaid.
Perhaps the greatest aspect about baseball is the relative harmony between the players and owners.
While the NFL and NBA seem to be heading toward work stoppages, baseball’s labor situation has been quiet and peaceful.
MLB’s collective bargaining agreement is up after this season. Unlike football and basketball, there are no fundamental differences and disagreements between the players’ union and the owners.
But let’s not over-romanticize today. People like to talk about the idea of hope and optimism that permeate every clubhouse – that all teams are equal today, that every team has a chance.
Let’s be honest: the Kansas City Royals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Houston Astros and yes, even the Mariners, probably aren’t going to win the World Series, let alone go to the postseason.
It’s not a belief thing. It’s a talent thing.
And yet in those places, for those fans, it doesn’t dampen today. It doesn’t make it any less special. Today is special. Maybe it’s a sign winter is finally coming to an end.
The sound of pitchers and catchers playing catch is far better than any bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates.
Happy first day of spring training.