We have reached my absolute least favorite time of year, some of which is related to baseball, some of which is not.
I despise the summer. This hasn't always been the case; when I was a child it was probably my favorite time of year, especially since it involved my birthday and the deployment of the Slip N Slide.
But as I've grown older, summer first meant a break from school, which most people loved. I, however, having been a workaholic from way back, absolutely hated those empty three months, especially when I was too young to get a summer job.
Then, once I have been old enough to work, I have despised, too, the summer job; the boring afternoons spent shelving books at the library, my utterly wretched tenure at the Showcase Cinema in Lowell on summer breaks in college.
I also have grown to loathe the heat. I sometimes think I have the opposite of the typical seasonal affective disorder--where I have friends who become lethargic and irritable in the dead of winter (and most people seem to have a limit on their tolerance for cold and snow), I am the only one I know in that same place in late July and into August, when the warmth outside is no longer a novelty, where it has settled into a deep, sluggish, humid sort of fugue state as opposed to the crisp light of spring or fall. I now have work that spans the summer, and more recently, it's work I enjoy. But there are still innumerable things that make me feel spiteful about the summer--getting into a car after it's been sitting in the parking lot at work all day; trying to sleep when even the air conditioner can't make my apartment comfortable; and of course, the frequent and high-pitched rejoicings of various summer types about how beautiful it is outside.
There are really only a couple of things I like about summer: ice cream stands are open, for one. I also do confess I feel some nostalgia on those summer nights after a scorching hot day, when the air feels exhausted. And, of course, I love baseball.
But now, at this late date in July, even baseball has a seasonal habit that irritates me deeply and contributes to my overall summer irascibility--the trading deadline.
I'm not a big fan of the hot stove; playing GM is not my strong suit. I am not only fairly poor at the kind of statistics and calculations involved in arriving at VORP, but wholly uninterested in it. Others are almost visibly lit up when discussing, haranguing, arguing, debating over multi-team deals and "packages" of prospects and big-league role players for that one starting pitcher another team so foolishly parts with and puts your team over the top. The Holy Grail of the trading deadline is a deal like the Nomar Affair, a deal that can be pointed to later as the turning point of a team's entire season. Little boys dream of being Nomar; older boys dream of being Theo, with the power to shape a multibillion-dollar franchise into a success, the ability to shuffle big-time athletes around the league like it's his personal chess board at his discretion.
I can understand all that, in a vague and detached sense. I get it, but I don't feel it.
I, for one, dislike everything about the trading deadline, but especially the rumors, especially since 99% of them turn out to be untrue and everyone gets all worked up for absolutely nothing. I hate, right now, HATE, that Mike Lowell's name keeps coming up on blogs and ESPN and all the rest, how some cockamamie deal with Lowell to the Padres (the scarier permutations of which involve Hillenbrand at first base for the Sox) has people wheeling and dealing and arguing as if it were fact. This is precisely the reason I stopped listening to WEEI--that phenomenon in which a premise is thrown out as speculation and by evening has evolved into God's Honest Truth about which we should be Very, Very Upset. This, in my opinion, is the worst trait about Red Sox culture in particular--the seemingly endless capacity for jumping to imaginative conclusions and then raising an emotional response to them before they've even been judged plausible. Hence the annual Mannygate. Hence this latest round of wild speculation and rumors and leaks.
Though 99% of the rumors turn out to be nothing, there are also some times where the steady rumble of the chatter focuses on one name or another to the point where it's fairly certain at least that player will be involved in a trade, regardless of whether or not the teams involved or other players involved are accurate. This is what happened with Nomar. Now, that chatter, that rumble, is steadily repeating the name of Mike Lowell. Regardless of whether or not the Padres are really involved or whether any of the rest of it is bogus, it's Mike Lowell's name coming up over and over and over again. That still might mean nothing, but it does not bode well.
And that's what I hate. You don't even know how to feel because there's nothing to feel anything about--only a vague sense of dread and a silent plea to the universe not to take that guy, not to take your guy, you root for the laundry but still...the trading deadline says "you've spent the last six months getting to know and love this team as it is. Now you get to find out who's going to be lost."
We have the best infield defense in all of major league baseball. I know our pitching situation grows more dire with every passing day, but the thought of decimating that defense by ridding ourselves of one of its corners--its hot corner--is a shuddersome one. Yet these are the happy prospects fans get to contemplate at the trading deadline.
I hate it. I really do.
P.S. Yes, I did cop out on writing anything about yesterday's afternoon game. This is basically because I am not nearly as creative or smart as Joanna. So go read her post, which is seriously among my nominations for "Blog Post of the Year" so far.