“Opening series sweeps can be just about as harmful as the opposite,” the manager said—though not out loud, of course.
A three-game hole before Tax Day was less than ideal, obviously, but a good, early-season humbling never hurt, either. Good luck keeping that guy grounded, he thought, as his second baseman strolled by, naked as his birthday but for a pair of cherry-red-rimmed sunglasses.
“Yo, turn that music off,” BP shouted, shushing the clubhouse with both arms. He mounted the black-leather sofa, straddling its back—good christ, don’t let him fall, the manager grumbled—and puffed out his chest.
The whole room fell silent, the pitchers and catchers alike, the infielders and outfielders, the scribes and assistant coaches. Not even Aroldis’s pet parakeet El Duque dared peep.
“Ay, where all the writers at, the ones that picked us last in the division?” BP screeched. “This look like a last-place team to y’all? Better yet, does that look like a World Series crew to you?! Three games, three wins. Three games, three late rallies. Three games, and you’re already looking foolish. What happened? Cat gotcho pens?”
The second baseman paused for effect—dude had panache, you had to give him that—then unleashed a series of unprintables.
“Tell you one last thing,” BP wheezed as the manager looked at his watch, “We ain’t going no. damn. where. See you in October. … ’Roldy, throw that music back on.”
BP rode the teeter-tottering couch back to the floor with a light thud. Over in the corner, Joey tried to suppress a merry jig of his hips and Devin scowled the happy version of his scowl.
“It’s like they didn’t learn a thing,” the manager thought. An entire Indian’s summer worth of hard lessons could’ve found their way in, burrowed deep until they emerged as motivation, yet a single series worth of good fortune was all it took to wipe them all away.
This society, he thought, shaking his head, with Twitter and online message boards and the talking heads hurling nonsensicals at each other every morning on ESPN2. It treats everything like it’s the National Football League™, where every game actually does matter.
Baseball, though, wasn’t like that. Patience was rewarded, and the 162-contest marathon ground all abnormalities to dust. Maybe its time really had past. The manager was a baseball lifer. He was washed in the blood of the game—Copenhagen spit, mostly—raised on sunflower seeds and barrels of bubble gum. It was all he knew, all he ever really cared to.
So he knew false confidence when he saw it. But he also knew what this mating display of a victory dance really meant: His team was still hurting. Last year’s blows to its pride bruised deep. He knew you could win with this roster, that all the pieces were hypothetically there, but also just how perfectly everything would need to break. Every team in this league was either loaded or starting from scratch in the hopes that they one day might be. Few teams were willing to slog through with what they had with fingers crossed, and this strategy might ultimately prove a mistake. But the manager still felt a surge of pride when he wrote his lineup card every day.
They were flawed sure—cut to BP dancing the long-outdated Dougie in front of his locker—but they were his hand. They were his guys. There would be other clubhouse days, somber and quiet. The breaks would bounce the other way. This sport could be fickle, as any longtime baseball man would tell you.
So sure, it was early. But let them enjoy it. Nobody stays perfect forever—and few even make it this long.