March is a great moment for baseball fans.
The grass may not be growing in St. Louis just yet, but the fields are green and active down in Jupiter, Florida.
Games are happening, players are taking swings and throwing pitches, and the 2019 season is starting to formulate.
Just remember, Cardinals fans: these are exhibition games, so don't take them too seriously.
Before you attack me for telling you how to baseball, please understand the point of this article. Being excited is one thing. After all, we are less than a month away from regular season games, aka the real stuff. Sweat over those games. Don't waste your nerve endings and mood swing on a game in March. It's just not worth it.
Dexter Fowler could go 0-35 this month, and still start 95% of the games in April. All he is trying to do this month is find out where his swing is at, maintain his health, and smile every five seconds.
The media won't hound him for progress reports, asking him why he isn't hitting and how that makes him feel. Everybody is nice to each other during the first three months of a calendar year in the world of baseball.
Miles Mikolas may have been roughed up on Tuesday, but there's no reason to fret. He's simply going through the motions right now, testing out pitches, and unwinding the body for a long season that will hopefully include 35 starts and some more in October. When you look back on the Atlanta Braves having their way with him on March 11, you won't worry if he is shutting down the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first week of October. In the words of Donnie Brasco, fuggadiboutit!
Oh, but look at Tyler O'Neill hit a ball halfway towards South America. What about those bombs that may deal NASA a little uneasy afternoon feeling?
They are nice and all, but don't mean much if he can't cut down on the strikeouts. O'Neill's prolific spring power is a nice sight to take in as you down a minor league park hot dog, but it doesn't mean much if he's collecting 1-4 at-bats per week on the bench.
Dakota Hudson may look good, but he's facing some AA and AAA bats right now. Raw rookies without a care in the world swinging at anything close. It's a pleasant sight to see him not walk every other batter out there and strike some professionals out, but I won't get my hopes up until he's doing it next month and May as well. I just want the kid's arm to stay attached. Pardon me if I don't spit out my drink over the kid blowing unflinching heat past a guy who may be eating a 7-11 bean burrito in a month.
The biggest factor for me this month is health. Staying in one piece is paramount. The Cardinals don't need any more injuries.
Losing Carlos Martinez from the rotation was a big enough wound. Feel free to twist some bubble wrap around Yadier Molina after an inning of work, and take Jack Flaherty out before he feels the wrong kind of twinge in his elbow. Paul Goldschmidt can smoke a third inning single, but send him to the showers soon afterwards. Play the guys who probably won't make it, and slowly work in the regulars.
It's my belief that spring training is too long, giving human bodies way too much time to get hurt.
I don't like the month-long schedule. Don't give managers too many headaches and mind games. These guys play 162 regular season games with little rest in between, so save me the "give me all the free baseball I can get" speech. It's too long. Don't disagree. Just nod your head, take a swig of coffee, and we can move on.
There will be plenty of time to tweet about Dexter Fowler slamming a ground ball into the ground or gingerly running towards a fly ball. If you are dying to tweet about the digression of Marcell Ozuna's left arm, save it for April. I am sure Adam Wainwright's Jamie Moyer routine will get pummeled on occasion, so you can go after him then.
For now, do us all a favor and just love the return of the best sport in the world.
A sport that takes up the most time in your life, carves up your nerves, steals your stress, and provides many life-affirming moments in the process.
There will be good days, bad days, and straight-up ugly nights. You see that sidewalk outside your house? That'll be your pacing headquarters around midnight after the bullpen coughs up a 5-4 lead. Did you promise your priest that you won't curse in 2019? Forget that idea by June 1.
All I'm saying is relax and enjoy the game.
Do it for Rob Manfred, who won't rest until baseball games are seven innings long, last two hours or less, and have robotic utility bench players that pop out of the ground right when a player even thinks about being injured.
Baseball has returned to our lives to mess with our heads and play with our hearts. In time, you will scream. For the time being, smile and celebrate the game that Kevin Costner would want you to.
Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter, @buffa82.