When I was young summers were an eternity. The time between starting vacation and heading back to school stretched to the horizon and curved with the earth. There never seemed to be the end of any day, until one day it did all end and I was back at a desk.
The baseball season slips by with a similar lack of time. In March baseball is finally back. A month of exhibition games, then 162 regular season games, then playoffs (hopefully). It seemingly stretches without end. Wasn't I just wandering the new Salt River Fields complex with my wife and Devin? Wasn't I just at the home opener? Wasn't I just at the All-Star festivities? In two days autumn will arrive, 5 days after that the end of the season. Wasn't it just summer?
The worst part is the wait. It is an almost foregone conclusion the Diamondbacks will win the NL West, needing only 3 wins or Giants losses. It's reasonable to believe the Diamondbacks will figure out how to at least go 3-4, if not better. And it's just as reasonable to believe the Giants will not go 7-0 (assuming the Diamondbacks only win 2 games). Yet the wait plants seeds of doubt.
When there is still a month to play it's easier to say, "well, we should go .500, which means the Giants need to go .560," or whatever the specific numbers are. Yet as the games slip away, the calendar becomes compressed. Suddenly it's not so unreasonable to imagine a scenario where the Giants get hot as the D-backs falter. It's not likely, but over 10 games it's much more likely than over a month.
In other words I'm looking for ways to be preemptively disappointed. What have I done to deserve happiness, I ask? Sports exist to disappoint me; sports give me three hours of wild swings between elation and depression. I've spent the past 20 years backing losers, with only the occasionally (and increasingly distant) appearance in the playoffs. So of course I don't know what to do with the Diamondbacks right now.
Shortening the season to 154 games wouldn't make this feeling go away. Instead of panicking on September 21st, I would have bee panicking on September 8th. Normally any particular baseball game doesn't have much meaning. There are so many games to play in a season that it is acceptable to drop some. But only in April or May, June or July, or even August. Now with the limited available games left to clinch, every game feels like it has more value. It's an illusion, of course, because if the D-backs had won 3 extra games in April then we wouldn't need them now. But we didn't know we needed those 3 specific wins in April. We know it now.
And what will it mean if the Diamondbacks do actually clinch the division in the next couple days? I'll be happy, to be sure. Elated, even. But is it true happiness? Or do we only know the shadow of it? The postseason will start, and regardless of proclaiming, "I'm just happy not to be in last place," I'll want more. I'll want more until they've won it all, and it they don't it won't be enough. I can rationally proclaim that I'm happy, but I won't be.
Baseball is ultimately about waiting to be disappointed. A team can't possibly win a championship every year, or win every game. A star player can't possibly hit every game, or even every clutch situation. Every team will lose 50 games, every player will not get a hit 65% of the time. Don't get your hopes on this next pitch, or game, or series, or season. Just wait for it.