TOO SOON?

Del Olaleye: Hey baseball, it's not your time yet

The Astros just celebrated a World Series win. Harry How/Getty Images

When did the final whistle of the NFL season start the clock on the baseball season? The moment Tom Brady’s final pass hit the turf and the Eagles won their first Super Bowl twitter took a dark turn. I don’t follow many people to avoid clutter but my picky twitter habits didn’t stop the onslaught of baseball tweets and retweets. It came from team-run accounts, media members and fans. Everyone was celebrating the start of the baseball season. On Feb. 5. The same Sunday night as the Super Bowl. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Baseball is fine if you like that sort of thing. That “sort of thing” is a sport that has traditionally frowned on players showing emotion that falls outside of what is deemed acceptable. A sport that features an archaic set of unwritten rules that you have no idea exist until one is broken. Do you think you might enjoy a sport that polices itself by hurling a hard fist-size projectile at a person’s ribs? Then I’ve got 162 games for you. That’s right, 162 games. Games that can range in length from two-plus hours to double the length of a feature film.  The following will be a common scenario at the beginning of April:

“Meet me at Cinemark at 9:30 for Black Panther? I’m watching the Astros right now.” - Baseball Fan

“But it’s only 4. I was thinking 7:30. How long can a game take?“ - someone smarter than Baseball Fan

“We never really know.” - Baseball Fan says wistfully

There is more than enough baseball to go around. The games that count begin in early April and end in October, if we’re lucky. In the case of the 2017 season we were “treated” to November baseball. A logical person might say that is way too much baseball for anyone reasonable. I’m resigned to the fact that the season won’t be shortened to 100 games or to my preferred 80. But baseball fans will not convince me that the third most popular sport in America actually begins in February. Don’t get too comfortable with that distant bronze medal either. Soccer is gaining and if the US Soccer Federation could put together a decent product baseball would get knocked off the medal stand.

There are multiple major sporting events on the calendar before baseball actually begins to matter. NBA All-Star weekend begins on the 16th of this month. The NFL Draft starts April 26th. The NBA Finals begin May 31st. The World Cup begins June 14th. These are all things that will take over the national conversation while baseball twitter is telling us “it’s too early to make draw conclusions” or “there is still so much baseball left.” Your favorite baseball team could put together a ten-game winning streak and it wouldn’t cause a blip. No one will care but the seven percent of the American population that still considers the sport America’s Pastime. By the way, a 10-game winning streak in baseball happens to equate to just under 6.2 percent of total games in a season. Yeah, the season is way too long.

I’m getting distracted. This isn’t so much about baseball as it is about baseball twitter. Twitter accounts operated by the Astros, MLB and something called Cut4 immediately announced the start of baseball season after the Super Bowl ended. They weren’t the only ones. Of all teams, the Marlins decided to tell us it is “their turn.” The Marlins? How many people in south Florida could name four Marlins? Just stop it. You have your place, baseball twitter. There is that little sweet spot after the Final Four and before the conference finals in the NBA. A little over a month to try to not overwhelm us with early season stats that you readily admit don’t mean much. Until then keep quiet. The rest of us just tolerate you.

The World Series lasted into November and the Astros defeated the Dodgers in Game 7 to win their first World Series. Baseball season was taken to the very limit and I guess it was so great people can’t wait to start it all over again.

Well I can wait.

The season really begins July 4. You know this baseball twitter. Don’t try to change the rules now.

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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