If you were to ask me what my favorite sports/sports comedy movie of all-time is, it would only take me a millisecond to respond: “”Major League,” and everything else is a distant second.” For those of you that do not know about the wonderment of that specific film, let me enlighten you. Set in the late ’80′s, “Major League” follows the fortunes of a fictional Cleveland Indians team that is put together by their devious ex-showgirl owner who wants to make the team so terrible that she will be able to move the Indians to Miami. She loads the team with hobbled and aging veterans and youngsters with little to no major league experience, and hires a Coach who works in a tire factory in addition to managing a Triple-A ball club. As bad as the team is and is thought of by many, once they get wind of the owner’s plans to sell the team and cut/send them down, they start winning at a neck-break pace and are in the hunt for the Division Crown on the last day. I won’t give away the ending to anybody who hasn’t seen it, but let me say that this is quite the sports film, and provides any baseball fan that roots for a less than successful franchise one thing: HOPE. And isn’t hope the best thing that Spring Training can provide for a franchise like the Padres?
I actually have a tradition where I kick off every Spring Training by watching “Major League,” because it gives me as a Padres fan hope for an under-the-radar successful season. The Padres have never been “off the charts good” throughout the course of my life (save for the ’98 season), and have never exactly garnered lofty expectations from the national media at the start of every season when they head to Peoria. But you know what? I don’t care. In fact, every Spring, I always hold out hope that for that upcoming season, San Diego can give those reporters a “Nice, Big, S#!t-Burger to eat” as fictional Indians Manager Lou Brown said. And if “Major League” taught me anything, it is that for one season a supposedly “lowly” team can get hot, start reeling off wins, and defy the odds on the way to success.
Spring Training gives us the fans a glimmer of hope before the regular season and the 162-game grind begins. At 0-0 we can speculate who is going to make the roster, what positional battles will be won, who of the youngsters looks Big League ready, and which new faces could make an impact. The previous season’s misfortunes are left in the dust, and for a four week period in March we are left to speculate and daydream. It is that one fine month where all us baseball fans can forget about payroll, talent, rivalries etc. and be glad that the sport is finally back without having to contend with the behemoth known as the N.F.L. for five more months. The thought of a new beginning in a sunny climate allows even the most cynical of fans to gather enough positive thoughts about a franchise that will likely lose 95 games and be out of the race by the All-Star Break.
I’m holding out hope that the new faces on the Padres like Carols Quentin can provide some pop to the anemic lineup. I’m hoping that the strength of the team, the Pitching Staff, can take advantage of Petco’s dimensions and win some 1-0 games when needed. I’m also hoping that the N.L. West is as mediocre as ever, and the Padres can stick around long enough and get hot at the right time to contend for a postseason berth.
Yet with the Padres’ current payroll and their current roster, we could logically be looking at an 85 Loss team that has the ability to flirt with .500 for a good part of the season. Furthermore, we are still a year or two away from the #1 Rated Minor League system doing any significant damage at the Big League level. But hey, I’ve got time, and I’m a loyal fan. I come back year after year and support the Padres because they’re my favorite team, and I hold out hope that one day the franchise can “put it all together.” The thought that there is actual hope on the horizon and the premise that the Front Office is actually making making moves which benefit the future of this franchise is terrific and will inevitably sustain me through the next couple of rebuilding seasons.
So in the next couple of days I’m going to do exactly what I have done every season for as long as I can remember. I’ll grab my old VHS copy of “Major League,” fix myself a bowl of popcorn, and enjoy the movie. Then after the film I’ll daydream a bit and cross my fingers that somehow, and some way, the Padres can make the upcoming season a bit more exciting and contend for the ultimate prize. Hey, I can dream can’t I? And Spring Training provides the perfect setting to do it.
What do you think readers? Does Spring Training give you any hope as Friars fans? What can we expect from the team? Also, if you have any favorite “Major League” quotes, put them in the comments section.
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