Today this usually lighthearted blogger must post about something serious. Hot Stove Grief or HSG, as the condition is known today, has been afflicting baseball fans for as long as there has been baseball and yet frank discussions of this serious illness have remained taboo until recently. In order to begin to bring comfort to HSG sufferers everywhere and heal the damage and upheaval this condition can cause in their relationships with uncomprehending friends and families, it is important for us all to learn to recognize the symptoms and stages of Hot Stove Grief:
Unrealistic Optimism - HSG sufferers experience a strong hope, bordering on and occasionally crossing over into belief, that their team’s front office will pull off increasingly fantastical free agency signings and trade agreements, often completely unsubstantiated by prior team behavior. Just to pull a completely random example out of thin air, the belief that the Angels were going to sign Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Adrian Beltre this off season, or any combination of two of them. In (also completely random) hindsight, owner Arte Moreno’s end of season comments that the Angels were going to spend big and do whatever it takes to improve the team just underscores the sad fact that Hot Stove Grief does not discriminate. Even baseball owners may suffer from this potentially debilitating condition from time to time.
Bargaining - HSG sufferers begin “bargaining” with the team of their affections, offering the team, its ownership or specific members in the front office the fan’s own services, heirloom jewelry, beloved vehicles, spouses and even theoretical first born children if the team will agree to fulfill the fan’s Hot Stove wishes. Of course, these bargaining conversations never really take place with the team. They are HSG delusions and usually take place in the form of conversations with friends and family, loud rants and begging directed at the television set/radio/newspaper/computer screen and, even, blog posts.
Anger - Eventually the HSG stages progress to anger. This may be the hardest stage for friends and family to deal with and every sufferer expresses it differently. It is important to remain supportive and allow the HSG suffering fan to express his or her feelings. If this becomes too difficult, you might subtly suggest that fan find other outlets to burn off their anger such as boxing, chopping wood or even blogging.
Threats - Many HSG sufferers begin threatening to carry out increasingly unlikely punishments if their team does not comply with the HSG sufferer’s Hot Stove wishes. Common threats include non-renewal of season tickets, never going to see a game again, renouncing one’s fanship entirely, burning prized team related possessions and even starting to root for the team’s most hated rival. As with the bargaining stage, the threat conversations never actually take place with the team in question.
Rationalization - In this stage, HSG sufferers begin to comfort themselves that the reason their team failed to make the Hot Stove move they were hoping for is part of some obscure, larger strategy and that surely an even better Hot Stove deal is imminent. Over indulgence in this stage can bring about a relapse where fans repeat the Anger and Threats stages. While there is some controversy among HSG researchers about whether Rationalization is its own unique stage or is simply one expression of the Unrealistic Optimism stage and the CDC has yet to validate either theory, I feel it warranted its own mention here.
Resignation - As HSG suffering fans begin to reach the end of their grief cycle, they become resigned to the idea that their team isn’t going to make any of the Hot Stove deals they had in mind. While friends and family might think the HSG afflicted fan is suffering less during this stage make no mistake, they are still experiencing a considerable amount of pain. Fans at this stage feel may a slight disconnect with their team and possibly even less passion for them. They may actually view the beginning of the new baseball season with a certain amount of apprehension and even dread. And what could be more painful than that?
Grudging Acceptance - At this stage the HSG suffering fan is still very unhappy with their team’s Hot Stove decisions or lack their of, but has accepted that there is nothing the he or she can do about said decisions and begins to move on. The fan is now able to enjoy interactions with their team again. This is the crucial breakthrough stage in HSG. Once the suffering fan honestly begins to look forward to Spring Training the new season again, the fan is cured. However, relapse is always a possibility.
While friends and family of the HSG afflicted fan should review this outline of the grieving stages carefully, it is important for them to understand that each fan’s grieving process is unique. If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from HSG, the most important thing is to remain loving and supportive. Listen when they want to rant and rave, even if you have heard it all hundreds of times before. Subtly try to involve the sufferer in activities that keep them from pouring over the trade rumors site all day long. But never, under any circumstances, should you try to sever the sufferer’s relationship with their team of choice. However much it may seem like you are doing them a kindness at the time, removing an HSG suffering fan from all contact with their team has been known to produce a severe catatonic state and sometimes even death.
Thank you very much for your time today. I now return you to your regularly scheduled MLBlogs programming.
Well that was a little longer in between posts than intended! No, the reason was not actually Hot Stove Grief. I have managed my personal bout with this illness admirably – made it to work every day, attended social functions and everything! Besides, I am coming to the end of my personal Hot Stove Grief. Barring any unforeseen set backs *glares at Angels Front Office* grudging acceptance is just around the corner. No, I have been putting in late nights and wee hours of the mornings all week finishing the latest stage in a policy writing project for work. Work – curse of the drinking (and apparently blogging) classes and all that. ;)
I guess I’ll let Nolan Ryan off on a technicality. I mean there isn’t a whole lot that’s remote in the 48 hour distance between that statement and a signed contract now is there? No, that pretty much is just imminent. What was it I was saying a few weeks ago about the different front offices playing a little too much Diplomacy this off season? If I were actually sitting in on this particular game of Diplomacy I might say well played in addition to growling less sportsmanlike comments but, as it is, I’m just growling.
So Adrian Beltre is a Ranger and the Angels missed the boat again. I understand that the free agent market got outrageously expensive again this year. Under normal circumstances, I think sticking to one’s principals is laudable but, right now, claiming to stick to their principals just looks like the Angels front office is making a piss poor excuse for terrible performance. We didn’t strike out this off season, we barely even bothered to step up to the plate. And they better not start carting out Takahashi and Downs again like those signings make for a fine off season on their own and anything else would just have been gravy. Those signings were a great start, alas apparently on a road to nowhere. When nothing else followed, just admit that you messed up. That way you only look really stupid instead of abysmally stupid.
If I am being rational, I know this isn’t the absolute end of the world. If I am being rational, I know that there is no one player who is the answer for us in a vacuum without any other changes. If we had landed Beltre and, defying all reason, the rest of bats went missing for most of the season again, a season with only Beltre and Weaver consistently performing to expectations isn’t going to be any prettier than one where Weaver more or less consistently performed to expectations alone. If the bats actually show up, I think the team that hits the field in 2011, as it stands right now, is a better team than the one that hit the field in 2010. Rationally though, I really don’t know if that is enough.
Again, if I’m being rational, it’s a long season and we haven’t started Spring Training yet. Everybody has to play 162 games, blah, blah, blah and all of the other clichés. But, seriously, a lot can happen in that amount of time, especially in California baseball. My sister and I have always said that no one, but no can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (or, sadly, defeat from the jaws of victory but let’s not go there right now) in the most unexpected of ways like California baseball teams. Angels, Dodgers, Giants, A’s and Padres fans, you all know what I’m talking about. And tomorrow…okay maybe by next week, I will probably truly believe all of this and the other hopeful posts I have made on this blog again.
But tonight I don’t feel like being rational. I am angry, enough so that I didn’t so much type this as I beat and pounded it into the keyboard. Whether or not Beltre was the answer, I just wanted something, anything to point at and say, look, the front office is really trying this off season instead of well, just being trying.
The Rangers signed Beltre, except for the fact that they didn’t. That was totally a rumor. No wait, new rumors from more credible sources say that it’s the second rumor that was only a rumor. Beltre is signing on the Rangers’ dotted line right now. But wait, no. The people who are responsible for the rumor that the rumor about the first rumor being only a rumor was really just a rumor too, are now also guilty of spreading a rumor. Moose bites hurt. A lot. And now for something completely different…
This is the Hot Stove news I read on my Blackberry as we left a family holiday party this evening. And, yes, because I came in on the tail end of all of the rumor and counter rumor, to me it really did sound that Python-esque. The final word on all of the rumors? According to MLB.com, the Rangers do not have a deal with Beltre, nor is a deal imminent. The article goes on to quote Nolan Ryan this evening saying “As of right now, Michael Young is our third baseman. We haven’t done anything.” While I tend to think that, with Young’s bat and glove at third base, the Rangers wouldn’t really be interested in Beltre at this price, I did notice that Ryan’s no isn’t exactly a long term no and it’s not like the Rangers haven’t asked Young to switch positions for someone else before. I believe that MLB.com’s article is the final word on Beltre and the Rangers today but Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday? Next week? Who knows.
The family holiday party this evening was our annual post Christmas get together with my mother’s side of the family. The Giants cousins come down from Merced and Fresno and the Dodgers cousins come from all over L.A. and Orange County and then there are my husband and I. Surprisingly, baseball is not usually a big topic of conversation. This year, of course, it was not to be avoided.
I was pleased to see one cousin from Merced whom I have not seen in about two years because he’s been very ill. He’s recently recovered almost completely. “Oh I’m feeling so much better and it’s the strangest thing. Do you know what the turning point was? Game 6!” I had to laugh and congratulate him, of course. And that was pretty much the tone for the evening. My cousins are still so ecstatic and cute over the Giants win that I can’t help but be happy for them all over again. Of course, they’re still a little chip on their shoulders over the Giants’ champion status. Mentions of the Angels or 2002 still bring about hissing – yes, literal hissing – and a chorus of too soon, too soon. They’re a little sensitive about the Dodgers rivalry too, all of which kept me in stitches for large portions of the evening.
My dad picked up on this, I think, because during a discussion about baseball announcers, he pounced. One cousin mentioned that he likes the Giants radio announcers so much, he will gladly put up with the delay in order to hear the radio broadcast while he watches the game muted on TV. My father got this mischievous twinkle in eye and said that, over the years, he’s done the same thing with Vin Scully’s broadcasts…after the Dodgers beat the Giants and head into the post season. My cousin started to sputter angrily about the Dodgers bad season and how he expects the same from them next year and so on, until he realized everyone else was cracking up on both sides of the fan divide, including my father. Then the conversation became playful and teasing again. You simply can’t let family get your goat that easily.
I may have been laughing the loudest of anyone. I don’t think I have ever seen my father talk trash before. But he and my mother were high school sweethearts so he has known all of these cousins, her cousins, since they were in high school and, in some cases, much, much younger. I think I just got a tiny glimpse of what they were all like getting together as kids and that was neat to see. Family and baseball both have the power to take even the most grown up among us back to the carefree silliness of our childhood and thank Heaven for that!
“By mid-day when even the best fed hobbits were out and about again…” This quote always pops into my mind the morning…er…early afternoon after a late night party. Of course, I feel that Tolkien intended best fed to also imply most thoroughly imbibed, latest celebrating and anything else that indicates general decadence and celebratory debauchery.
New Year’s Day is a day for proclaiming resolutions for the year to come. I’m sure the Angels have their resolutions just like you and I. Obviously, I’m not privy to what those resolutions might be, but having watched them all through the 2010 season, I can make some pretty good guesses:
- Stop picking one favorite pitcher or two in the starting rotation each year. Run support for all Angels pitchers in 2011!
- Everybody bats well above the Mendoza line in 2011. Just to be perfectly clear, .212 is not well above by any standard measurement, metric, imperial or otherwise.
- Unless you happen to be coming from behind, let’s make the 8th inning a little less exciting in 2011 shall we? There is nothing wrong with maintaining a lead and the antacid industry doesn’t need any extra boosts in this economy.
- All hustle, all the time – run for it, stretch for it, dive for it, bust your butt. Every game. Every inning. Every play. No exceptions. Angels who need to make this resolution know who they are.
- No runners left behind in 2011! Raise that RISP and more RBIs!
- Stealing bases is part of what Angels baseball is all about but know yourself and the opposing team. If you can’t steal 3rd (or 2nd for that matter) don’t.
- More decisive victories! Contrary to popular Bull Durham quote, shutouts are not fascist and while I love a bare knuckled baseball brawl for the victory as much as anyone, games where your lead is never in question aren’t boring, I assure you.
- Bring back the old swagger and sense of fun. Have a great time and kick some serious butt this year!
And last but not least, a suggested Angels fan resolution: Unless regular season play gives us any reason to react otherwise, let’s revisit that sense of “this year could be the year” optimism young fans feel at the beginning of every baseball season and let the 2011 season start with a clean slate.
Okay, so maybe I am the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels baseball :)