Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

April 4, 2013

Baseball means spring is close

BLUEFIELD — Picking a World Series winner in October is difficult enough, now try doing it in April.

Yes, contrary to what it might look or feel like outside, it is April. The Final Four is Saturday, Tiger-mania will be the focus of the Masters next week, and Major League Baseball has been in progress for five days.

It has been a long wait since the Giants won another ho-hum World Series for the second time in three seasons, sweeping past the Tigers in four games last October.

Did you know that since 2004, four of the nine World Series have been sweeps, and three others have gone just five games? Actually, from ‘04-09, three went four games and the other two went five.

Baseball is in serious need of some postseason excitement. We got it in 2011 when David Freese led the Cardinals to a dramatic win over the Rangers in Game 6, and then won the World Series the following night.

That was the last real excitement I can remember in a World Series — other than the Red Sox, White Sox and Phillies ending long championship droughts — since 2002 when Scott Spiezio’s Game 6 home run sparked the  Angels to a seven-game title run against Barry Bonds and the Giants.

From the point that baseball ends, I yearn for another season. Even as Alabama continues to win national championships in football, and another Super Bowl goes by without my Chargers, I am thinking baseball.

I start checking the newsstands for preseason magazines way too early until they start to appear in February. I used to purchase all of them, but now I limited myself to one.

Spring has always started for me when pitchers and catchers report, which is usually in mid-February. With a winter — and spring (?) — like we have had, any sign of spring is welcome to me.

I start thinking ahead to the crack of the bat, the perfect double play, the standup triple and the curveball that breaks at just the right moment for a called strike three, all of which makes me yearn for a game to attend.

Some folks call baseball dull, slow and boring. I feel sorry for those folks.

Baseball starts when it is cold and ends as the cold returns. Spring training begins in February, the regular season starts nearly seven weeks later and it won’t conclude until the end of September.

By the time October baseball finally arrives, spring — if it has arrived —  is over — summer is gone and fall is here. A champion has been determined in college basketball, the NBA, NHL, all four major champions in golf, and Alabama has begun another trek toward a national championship on the gridiron.

Through it all, baseball just keeps on going. At times it just seems like baseball can disappear, but when the attention turns away from one of those other events, baseball is still there, moving on toward October.

Then comes the playoffs and in three weeks or so, it is all over. Baseball disappears, winter arrives, and the same cycle starts all over again.

Another winter can wait. This spring has been bad enough.

Need the assurance that spring — yes, real spring with warm temperatures, flowers blooming and leaves on the trees — is approaching, it is the fact that baseball really has begun.

For the next six — and nearly seven — months, baseball will be part of life for all of us, whether you like the sport or not. Hey, if baseball is being played, it must be spring or summer somewhere, right?

My ultimate dream when I first started contemplating writing about sports was to be a baseball beat writer. I once met Hall of Fame baseball scribe Tracy Ringolsby in the Great American Ballpark press box in Cincinnati, and told him I wanted his job.

He told me I could have it in about 10 years. It’s been longer than that now, and that dream doesn’t appear to be happening.

Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?

Baseball is such a long season, and so much can happen in a grueling 162-game schedule. A win or loss counts just as much in April as it does in a pennant chase in September.

Yet, before giving up on the Pirates because they are 1-2 or the Blue Jays since they started 0-2, remember that even a team that wins 100 games still loses 62 times.

Losses happen in baseball. Just try not to have too many of them at one time, and your team could be standing at the end.

Who will that team be in 2013?

The Washington Nationals appear to be the favorite, but everyone has an opinion. The Sporting News picked the Tampa Bay Rays to finish fourth in the A.L. East. Sports Illustrated chose the Rays to play the Nationals in the World Series.

My picks in college football have been right on — picking Alabama has been easy in recent seasons — but baseball is a problem.

I picked the Cubs in 2008 — that was the 100th anniversary of their last World Series title — but that didn’t happen. Last year it was the Phillies — who got old before their time — and the Rays — who may have had the Price right, but couldn’t hit.

Over the last two seasons I have been picked Alabama to play for the national championship, and they won both times.

Baseball is tougher to pick, but here is my best guess.

A.L. East: Toronto (It’s been 20 years since the Blue Jays not only won the World Series, but also made the playoffs. That drought ends); A.L. Central: Detroit; A.L. West: Los Angeles; Wildcards: Texas, Kansas City (The Royals have the longest current postseason drought, last reaching the playoffs in 1985. Why not this year?).

A.L. Champion: Toronto.

N.L. East: Washington; N.L. Central: Cincinnati; N.L. West: Los Angeles; Wildcards: Atlanta, San Francisco.

N.L. Champion: Cincinnati.  

Sorry Pittsburgh fans, a 20-year playoff drought and streak of 20 straight losing seasons will continue.

As for the World Series champion, if it is Toronto and Cincinnati — my two favorite teams — go with the Blue Jays in 7, in a much-needed Fall Classic to remember. Either way, though, I will be a winner...or a loser.

No matter what happens, I can always pick the Crimson Tide again in the fall. That is a prediction anyone can have confidence in.

—Brian Woodson the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at

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