Things can change quickly in baseball. Thanks to the opt-out, and the perpetual looming threat of free agency for almost anyone, it’s not unusual to see the best players move from team to team, especially pitchers. For every Dustin Pedroia or Mike Trout there’s a Cliff Lee or David Price who needs extra space on his resume simply to list all his employers, given how often they’ve felt the ground shift beneath them.
For Price, the last three seasons are a whirlwind, and Monday night he’s scheduled to start his third consecutive opening day for a third new team, a feat that, per Sox media manager Jon Shestakofsky, has only been achieved twice before, incidentally by the avatars of both the hired guy and the old-school giant:
David Price will be the 3rd pitcher to make 3 straight Opening Day starts, all for different teams. pic.twitter.com/qR6cE8LkEw— Jon Shestakofsky (@Shesta_Sox) March 29, 2016
It’s true, of course: Price started opening day 2014 for Tampa Bay, 2015 for Detroit and will take the hill for Boston just as soon as the Sox get back from their exhibition series/Pedro Martinez lovefest in Montreal, about which Price tweeted warmly, so to speak, about his return to Canada after his stint on the Blue Jays last year. That’s right: change is so constant for some players that they can throw a fourth team into a three-season carousel ride and it will seem perfectly normal.
It happens to teams, too. For as stale as the Red Sox have been in some areas -- second base, designated hitter, closer -- they’ve had chaos elsewhere. As the ProJo’s Tim Britton wrote this week, when Brock Holt totters out to the position Monday in Cleveland, provided the showers hold off, he’ll be the ninth new Sox left fielder in nine opening days. Here’s a look at the full list:
Unlike the Price streak, which is certain to end next year, this streak will likely continue into 2017, and potentially beyond that. Holt, bless him, is eminently replaceable, to the point that he, himself, is a replacement for Rusney Castillo, a good bet gone meh. This stands to be true even if the Red Sox turn their fortunes around this year entirely, which shows that the chaos is often results-independent. Sometimes you just don’t know what to count on. But sometimes you do.
In Japan (and among Japanese families, including those at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where I learned about it, and which comes up about fifth if you Google "Hanami"), Hanami is the tradition of, in the words of Wikipedians, "enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, flowers ("hana") in this case almost always referring to those of the cherry ("sakura") or, less frequently, plum ("ume") trees." The appearance of the cherry blossoms is a reminder that the as often as things change, certain things will remain the same, in the same way that I would love the Red Sox even if they changed every player, every year.
All of which I’m reasonably sure is behind Koji Uehara’s Twitter explosion of cherry blossom-related media, as illustrated here:
An easier way to say all this is: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." All of that is a shorthand or incomplete way of saying life has patterns to which we are beholden, a fatalist view that has the benefit of being largely correct but, like the Death Star, having a serious vulnerability. In this case, I’ve always come back to the words of Questlove, who wrote in New York Magazine on a different topic:
The other day, we ran into an old man who is also an old fan. He loves the Roots and what we do. Someone mentioned the changing nature of the pop-culture game, and it made him nostalgic for the soul music of his youth. "It’ll be back," he said. "Things go in cycles." But do they? If you really track the ways that music has changed over the past 200 years, the only thing that goes in cycles is old men talking about how things go in cycles. History is more interested in getting its nut off.
… with which I move to my conclusion: The great thing about the start of the baseball season is that we know it’s finally time to get our nut off. It doesn’t matter what happened last year or even last month. The camera’s on now. Do we know what we’re doing? Not really, but in the words of another American icon, we’re here, and we’re gonna give it our best shot.