Pitchers and catchers are reporting. More importantly for our purposes, pitchers and catchers who wear Mets uniforms are reporting as of today. This hasn't been a particularly cold winter weather-wise, and yet it has been pretty chilly when it comes to moves the team has made, or the general outlook expected of it. And yet, just knowing that guys are putting on uniforms and long-tossing somewhere in Florida is enough to dispel your flinty skepticism and cynicism, because it lets you know that some real baseball, even if its quality has yet to be determined, is right around the corner.
When spring training begins anew this time of year, I always think of this clip from a special done by NBC prior to the 1988 season, a time when the Mets were still on top of the world, the A's were an emerging powerhouse, and a disturbingly large amount of baseball was still played on artificial surfaces. I miss NBC's baseball coverage a lot, especially when placed against the terrible productions put on respectively by FOX and ESPN. Perhaps the sober, intelligent approach you see on display here (one in which the announcers don't assume everyone in the audience has never seen a baseball game or can't form a complete coherent thought) couldn't have survived in the 21st century. It would have been nice to find out.
I've been thinking about NBC's bygone baseball broadcasts in the last few days as I've rewatched the 1986 World Series, prompted by the passing of Gary Carter. The big draw is, of course, Vin Scully, who manages to weave his own unique style into the play-by-play without coming across as trite or contrived.
In this clip, he cautions anxious fans and reporters alike to hold on to their perspective, which may be blunted from a long winter. He is, essentially, throwing cold water on everyone's enthusiasm, having seen far too many spring trainings in his day to believe in anybody's hype. It's quite a remarkable thing to view now, when broadcasters heartily encourage us to do the exact opposite: dive headfirst into believing in the Tim Tebows and Jeremy Lins of the world before any reasonable amount of time has passed in which we could accurately assess them.
Scully's testament begins at 1:14. Before that, you will hear a brief tribute to the promise of spring by Marv Albert. You will then see opening credits scored by The Cure (!). No, I don't know why that happened, either.