Opening Day brings optimism, but then reality hits

By Steve Shonder

Baseball season is finally here, and it’s a beautiful day. The optimism is flowing.

There’s probably a little too much optimism going around up in here. I spent my Monday morning running around my apartment, shouting “162-0,” which certainly won’t be a reality for any team, let alone the Cubs.

I still stand behind having the baseball season start later, but it’s fantastic to have a morning filled with hope and an evening filled with the crushing pessimism of reality that comes after a walk-off home run in the 10th inning.

Joe DiMaggio once said, “You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.”

Joltin’ Joe obviously wasn’t a Cubs fan or a baseball fan. Hold on, wait a minute, you say. Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio isn’t a baseball fan? I am saying that.

He was a Yankee. He didn’t endure the emotional roller coaster ride that is Opening Day for everybody else. He had a totally different experience; he had the experience of being a Yankee. He didn’t know pain.

I’ll go ahead and give a more realistic quote about Opening Day: “It’s like celebrating your birthday by yourself. You’re excited for every moment leading up to it, and then Neil Walker hits a home run in extra innings to remind you that you’re alone on your birthday.”

In reality, there isn’t much optimism to go around unless you’re a White Sox fan. They look like they could surprise.

It’s so comforting to finally have the sweet sounds of Hawk Harrelson shouting, “Stretch, stretch!” as a fly ball dies on the warning track for an easy out.

I guess getting to watch Chris Sale pitch makes up for having to listen to Harrelson shout things at me.

The Cubs continued to be the greatest tease in history. Whenever anyone gets any optimism about them, they pull off a “Cubbie Occurrence.”

The Cubs started the season running the old “get the leadoff man on and then go down in order” play that’s been perfected by the great Cubs teams of yore. This team is different — they bunted for an out every time they got a man on. New manager Rick Renteria is intent on fighting the man by giving up an out.

Of course, those legendary Cubs teams didn’t have Jeff Samardzija throw seven innings of shutout baseball when they decided to not score any runs. It’s almost enough to make me long for the days of Juan Cruz and Glendon Rusch, when the game was over by the first pitch.

Besides, how perfect is it that the Cubs sent Justin Grimm to the mound in the ninth? What a way to describe a team’s chances. The Cubs are getting a little too self-referential for my tastes.

I probably won’t wake up tomorrow and run around shouting, “161-1.” That only comes once a year, before the clean slate gets covered in dirt and grime. That’s how you know baseball season is here.