It has been a cliche since long before most of us could even spell that word: "Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint."
I must admit, though, that I don't give the old saying much thought. Every day I just check out who did what on the diamond the day before. I love the game, but it's much more about me observing than obsessing.
That changed, though, when the Mouth of the South called earlier this week to poke fun at me because the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are off to a slow start this season. Of course, there is no MLB team in Louisiana, so Billy Bob, my Cajun cousin down there, is a Texas Rangers fan.
As usual, I barely had time to say "Hello" before he began blabbering. "You must be fighting maniac depression, or whatever they call it," he said between chuckles.
"What the heck are you talking about, cuz? Golf season is in full bloom, so, as y'all would say down there, I'm happy as a pig in slop. No manic depression, and definitely no maniac depression."
"It's also baseball season in full bloom, you white-haired old man! And your two teams of interest are hurtin' for certain. In case you haven't noticed, you might wanna check out the standings so far this season and see what I'm saying is right on."
"So? I still don't get it, BB," I said, already wishing someone would cut my phone line.
"Well, I did a little research," Billy Bob said. "In case you've forgotten, the Yankees ran off with the AL East in 2011 with a 97-65 record and won the division by six games over Tampa Bay (91-71). And your beloved Bosox came close but didn't even make the playoffs. And as we speak," he continued, his voice getting louder, "the Red Sox are at the bottom of the pile."
"Yeah, yeah, I know all that," I said, disgust dripping over my words. "But they-and I mean every team in the majors-haven't even played 50 games yet. In case you don't remember, cuz, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. And if you had done all your homework instead of just skimming the surface, which I did while you were spewing that nonsense, you'd see what I mean."
"Whattaya talkin' 'bout?" he mumbled.
"So I have the floor for a change?" I said. "Good! Now listen, OK?"
Then I proceeded to inform Billy Bob that in 2011 the Baltimore Orioles were dead last in the AL East with a 69-93 record. And as we were talking, the Orioles were double digits above .500 and in first place. And I reminded him that the Detroit Tigers were 95-67 last year and won the AL Central Division by a whopping 15 games over second-place Cleveland, which finished two games below .500.
"Now," I said, wondering if he was still listening, or even awake, "the Indians are above .500 and in first place. The Tigers? How about just below .500? You paying attention?"
"Yeah, but barely," he said, either actually yawning or faking it.
"Well, there's more-namely, the Los Angeles Angels. There were those who figured that they might go 162-0 after signing superstar Albert Pujols. Well, Billy B, guess what? The Angels are in last place and already way behind your favorite team, the Rangers, in the AL West.
"Flip over to the National League," I continued. "The Philadelphia Phillies had the best record in the majors last year-the only team with more than 100 wins. And this week they are in last place in the NL East. Think they'll stay there? No way!"
"OK, OK, I'll give up if you'll shut up. You win," he said disgustedly.
"Look," I said, "where a team is in the standings after 40 or 50 games doesn't mean squat-unless a team is 0 and 50. In baseball as with golfers, pitchers and players run hot, warm, cool and cold. My Red Sox are snapping out of their early season slump and no doubt in my mind they'll make a run at the playoffs.
"You probably didn't know this, cuz, but Boston has scored more runs than any team in the American League and, yes, your Rangers are first. And now their pitching is coming around. Bottom line: Beware of the Bosox!
"Same goes for the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez will crank it up sooner than later-you can book that-and their pitching will get better, and as always, nobody who knows anything about baseball will be surprised when they go on a roll."
"Well, I must admit, you've convinced me-maybe for the first time in our lives," Billy Bob said. "Not only that, but we actually agree on something: It should be an interesting season."
"No doubt about it! See ya, cuz!" And I hung up.
Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.3.5/25/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.