Thanksgiving is an American tradition of which I am particularly fond. It marks the anniversary of my permanent arrival on these shores back in 2000 [okay, technically, Arizona doesn't have any shores, possessing, I believe, exactly two natural lakes and both of those are a bit unreliable], and I have a severe weakness for honey-baked ham. This will manifest itself today in my finest Gollum impression, as I clutch said ham to my chest, whisper lovingly to "my pressssssshussssssss", and lunge wildly at anyone, human or canine, whom I perceive as a threat to my possession of this delicacy. Hey, it's either that, or watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and there are only so many helium-filled giant Pokemon a man can stand before cracking.
Hence, this list of ten things - more or less baseball-related, since this is a baseball site (so my SB Nation bosses keep reminding me, anyway), listing only the good things that come into my mind about our national pastime. I'm taking the usual ones (health, family, blah-blah-blah) as read in this area, since we all know what they are!
The indictment of Barry Bonds Okay, this probably doesn't fall wholeheartedly into the category of "good things", since it's in response to the worst scandal to hit the sport in a long time, perhaps since the Black Sox. But we are now, at least, seeing people being held criminally responsible for their actions, and that marks a watershed in the process of cleansing, which is necessary for healing to take place. Only when all the skeletons have left the closet, can we then move forward.
Baseball-Reference.com On my personal home page, I have two links to sites I don't run: Google and B-R.com. That's how highly I rate it, and I also paid $29 for a subscription to their Play Index database. That's the only site on the web where I have ever paid for content, but it's been simply invaluable this season as a tool for the Pit. The immense volume of information there, and the ways in which it can be carved up, sorted and accessed means that when we finally enter the Matrix, I'll be hanging round Sean Forman's virtual house.
Pitchers who can bat "Pitchers who bat" in general are good (I'm so glad plans to realign us to the AL never went through). But it's amazing what a boost your pitcher getting a hit is, even though they're not all that more likely to fail [Hitters last year in the NL failed to reach base four times in six; pitchers around five in six] And in 2007, NL pitchers overall hit 146/.177/.188 for an OPS of .366, while ours batted .161/.168/.245, an OPS of .413. And that was even with most of our starts coming from Webb, Davis, Petit and Johnson, who were a combined .074 [12-for-162].All hail Micah and Hernandez 2.0.
Bonus baseball Arizona Fall League and Spring Training. The latter lets us get a look at some of the brightest prospects in the majors, up close and personal. That's for a princely six bucks per game, and takes place when the weather in the state is perhaps at its finest. Then, there's Spring Training: we don't have to go anywhere, and almost every team in the Western half of the country comes to us instead, with all their stars, and again the tickets are a fraction the cost of normal prices. Sure, the games in both cases may be almost meaningless, but that just makes the whole experience that much more relaxing. Who wins? Who cares!
An air-conditioned stadium with a retractable roof Let's face it, can you even imagine it any other way? Much as it's preferable to have the stadium open, for about four months of the season, you might as well spray napalm on the crowd and set them ablaze. One of the worst sunburns I ever got was before the season even started, in a spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium, so one dreads to think what the summer proper would be like. See also the Mesa Miners who had the second-worst attendance in all independent baseball when they tried to bring summer outdoor ball to Arizona. We're not insane. Instead, we get to laugh in the face of hell, and are now going into our eleventh season without a rain-out.
Young players Obviously, this is a topic particularly dear to our hearts, with the likes of Chris Young, Micah Owings, Stephen Drew, Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds on our roster. But I enjoy watching good, up-and-coming players on any team; they're the future of the sport, and so the likes of Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Felix Hernandez and...[grits teeth] Troy Tulowitzki are tremendous talents. Bill James thinks, "Arguably, there is more outstanding young talent around right now than at any other moment in baseball history," and it's hard to argue with that as an assessment.
Fellow fans The pace of baseball makes it perhaps the most social of games, and the subtleties also lend themselves to analysis, discussion and debate, probably to a greater degree than any other sport [I mean, an in-depth analysis of ice-hockey tactics would likely cover about one side, double-spaced]. Perhaps it's just me, but baseball fans seem more intelligent and thoughtful. Of course, there are exceptions - anyone wearing a Yankees cap at a tilted angle is a big warning sign - but if the world were run by us it would be a kinder, gentler place. Of course, wars would still be fought over, just over the DH rule. :-) Thanks to you all, for making this place what it is.
A wife who appreciates the game too I told Mrs. SnakePit I was writing a list of ten things to be thankful for: her first question was, "Does it mention me?" Confirming this got me some martyr points. At least, until I told her she was #3. "What, is honey-baked ham ahead of me?" she teased. No: not as far as baseball goes, anywat. But having someone who enjoys baseball every much as I do is..pretty miraculous, even though her appreciation is more intuitive rather than my "OPS with two outs and RISP" approach. She can spot a wobbly pitcher by his body-language inside two warm-up tosses though.
A franchise with a future Actually, and a past and a present too. Four division titles in ten seasons, including a World Series win? That's right up there with the Yankees, who have reached the playoffs 44% of the time, and is as many post-season trips as all our expansion brothers in Colorado, Florida and Tampa Bay combined. And how many division titles have they got between them? That'd be none at all, Bob. We go into 2008 as reigning NL West champions, with the core of our roster intact, and the bulk of them likely to improve in the coming season. Get on the bandwagon now, though I think I am probably preaching to the choir on that one here. :-)
The game itself Though the #1 thing to be thankful for should be, according to Chris, watching baseball while eating honey-baked ham. [Actually, a third simultaneous activity was also mentioned by Mrs. SnakePit, but as this is a family-oriented blog, I am drawing a veil over the full version] The game is a masterpiece of happy circumstance: the distance between the bases is perfectly calculated, for example, to make base-stealing an intriguing but risky proposition. Except, of course, there's nothing calculated about it: Abner Doubleday just got lucky. Baseball has evolved over the past 150 years or more into something which you could say was perfect, and I wouldn't dispute it with you. There is so much that makes the game unique, from the different rules followed by the two leagues, through to the lack of a clock. There's nothing like baseball, and for that, above all else, I'm grateful.
With that, I'm off to attack the ham. Any other suggestions for this list - or for thanks in general - are welcome.