With less than a week before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, Pining for the football season that has now begun to fade into memory seems more ponderous with each passing day. Looking back, it's hard to remember how full of promise the Fall was: The Denver Broncos were looking like favorites to return to the Super Bowl. This time they might even win the thing, making up for the dismal performance the previous year. Meanwhile, a little closer to my home, the Oakland Athletics were putting up big numbers and sending half their roster to the All-Star Game. By October, the wheels started to come off. Suddenly, the division-leading A's had become the wild card A's, and they were shown the door by eventual World Series contenders the Kansas City Royals. It took a little longer, but when another Missouri team caught up with the Denver Broncos and brought them low, the St. Louis Rams? Well, it sent a message about the way things might be in the off-season.
That's where we all spend a great deal of our time. Wishing for how things could have been while wondering how things might still be is the work of every hard-working sports fan. The past few weeks have stretched that speculation muscle to its breaking point. Will Peyton Manning come back for a fourth season with the Broncos? What will Gary Kubiak do with the happy mess that he has inherited in Denver? And what becomes even more immediately troubling, who are all those guys in green and gold, hanging around O.Co Coliseum?
By Billy Beane's estimate, seventy percent of what is the Oakland Athletics' roster for this upcoming spring is made up of trades he made over the past four months. When the team got together this past weekend for the annual Fan Fest, one of the only holdouts from the 2014 campaign, old-timer Coco Crisp wondered if it wouldn't be better to have the players' names on the front of their jerseys as well as the back. If you're about to embark on that championship season, you don't want to spend a lot of time yelling "hey, you!" at the back of some outfielder's head.
Or maybe that's what free agency has created: a whole new level of difficulty. One in which the first challenge is getting the team to know one another before they ever play an inning or a down together. In the meantime, I still have a couple of months before I have to pick a player whose jersey I will eventually have to retire, not because they became old and infirm, but because they got a bigger check from some other franchise. You've got to have a program if you want to know the players. A computer program.