'The one constant throughout the years has been base-ball', a wise fictitious man once said. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers, aye, and here the steamrollers sit, waiting to be refueled. Here we are. For two days, that constant didn’t exist, outside of a few rumors and one entertaining trade. For two days, there was no joy in Mudville, but not because of a strikeout, but because the ballpark in Mudville was vacant.
After two days of baseball-free doldrums, we’re back. Today is July 15th, and today is the first day of the rest of the season. Starting today, we begin the dash to October.
The season is three and a half months old, and yet it at once feels like we’ve only just begun, and like we’ve been here for eons. There is a distant memory of the Phillies being in first place and of Jake Arietta throwing a no-hitter in Cincinnati. Theoretically, at one point, there was a sacrilegious debate about Manny Machado being the best player in baseball. Was that really only just a few months ago?
It feels like it was just yesterday that the first pitch was thrown and the train to the World Series (perahps even, 'THIS TRAIN) took off, blissfully free from the constraints of breaks.
Then we hit the All-Star Break. We didn’t have a chance to catch our collective breath, because we were so breathlessly watching Giancarlo Stanton perform feats of strength and bat speed that surely must have warped the very laws of physics. We settled in, we watched the All-Star Game, we enjoyed ourselves.
Once it was over, we had only ourselves and trade rumors for company. Two days to stew in hypotheticals and fret over which player the team needs, and which prospects are untouchable. Two days of clinging to reports from the minor leagues. And, for Red Sox fans, one evening to weigh whether or not Drew Pomeranz really is worth Anderson Espinoza.
At long last, that energy can now be spent fretting over whether or not the manager will just go get the damn starter out of the game already, because he’s clearly laboring and that reliever in the bullpen has been ready for a while, for Pete’s sake.
Baseball is back. Mike Trout is back. Jose Fernandez is back. Francisco Lindor is back. Soon, hopefully, Clayton Kershaw will be back.
What can we expect from the second half? First, there will be trades. There’s already been a few (James Shields to the White Sox, Fernando Rodney to the Marlins, Aaron Hill and Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox and just yesterday the Padres dealt Pomeranz to Boston) but there will almost assuredly be plenty more. Rich Hill is waiting for a new home, as are Jonathan Lucroy, Jay Bruce, and Andrew Miller.
For teams on the rise, those teams that can already begin punching their tickets for the playoffs, now is the time to stock up and grow stronger. For fans of teams who reside in places such as Cincinnati and Milwaukee, it is a time to hope that the front office gets something good back for stars whom you’ve grown attached to. For fans of teams on the bubble like the Yankees, it’s a time to simply pray that the team does the right thing.
Once the drama of the trade deadline passes, it will be open warfare. The epic battles of 2015 between the Nationals and Mets, between the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs, between Yoenis Cespedes and poor innocent baseballs, will all be reignited in some fashion. The combatants may be different and the results won’t be the same, but dramatics will not be in short supply.
The coming months will be a madcap go-kart race with many casualties. Players, jerseys, phones, keyboards, baseballs, tickets; all will be injured or smashed or hurt in some capacity.
But most importantly, we’re going to have fun. There is a whole lot of baseball left to be played, and it’s too early to know for certain which exact teams will make it into the playoffs. Let’s speculate! Let’s discern and crack things open and examine their contents. Let’s allow ourselves to be swept away on a Corey Kluber slider and laugh the whole way.
Sure, there are awards to be quibbled over and there’s more than enough righteous indignation to go around. This is sports, after all.
But don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way. Read your scouting reports, read your favorite site’s (this site, of course) sabermetric analysis. Maybe even read a wishy-washy and overly saccharine article about baseball coming back.
Just remember to relax and enjoy the ride. Welcome back, baseball. It’s time to kick it into gear.