Mayday is an international day of celebration and it is an international signal for distress. Its double meaning is very relevant to baseball, I think.
You look like you’re going to dominate the National League, with the best pitching in the league, the best hitting, and the best fielding. Then for the second series in a row, you drop two out of three games to your main rivals.
You get it all back for three gorgeous games. So when a rookie pitcher falters, you don’t worry. But then you lose a close one to a very bad team and you come this close to losing another to the bad team, because you can’t capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Then you begin to feel that a young pitcher you got as a throw-in in a trade you only did because you feel that Mrs. Santa Claus should know when to keep her mouth shut and her …, well whatever, is the next coming of Tom Seaver.
Then you lose your second baseman in the first major injury of the season, and your somewhat fragile, no-spring-chicken, number-two starter also goes on the disabled list with something you hope is just what they’re saying and not something worse. And you hope your forty-year-old left-fielder who’s tearing up the league is also all right.
You know that you still had a great great month, but your three and four hitters are stuck in puzzlingly long slumps, and you don’t really have a replacement for that number-two starter. You don’t even have a reliable fifth starter. The starting pitching has been terrific so far. But you know that can change.
You see, you tell yourself, this is what a baseball season is really like. During the offseason, you sort of forget. You think of it as a balance of measurable forces. It isn’t. It is walking through a minefield, moments of security followed by moments of unforeseeable disaster. I won’t use the roller coaster metaphor because that’s what everybody always uses. And the roller coaster doesn’t really capture the sense of fear and precariousness that follows the joy and the pleasure. Though, come to think of it, minefield is a pretty tired metaphor too. To hell with it, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s not easy. Whatever it is. It’s fun. I’m happy. And I’m worried. Happy Mayday.