You need haters, too.
Yes, it's true. For this Valentine's Day 2009, we are showin' some love for haters around Major League Baseball. They are everywhere and part of the game. Send them some 1-800-FLOWERS love and get six free roses with every 12 you buy them. Open your heart to haters, and let the love flow.
After all, every year at this time we talk in this space about what we love in baseball. Love, love, love. It is time to talk about this kind of hate:
The Phillies fans who chanted, "Eva! Eva!" every time Rays rookie Evan Longoria came up to bat in World Series games last October at Citizens Bank Park.
Or worse yet, how about a two-day rain delay during the last game of a baseball season? What was that about? We hate rain in baseball!
"I hated to bat against [Don] Drysdale," Mickey Mantle once said. "After he hit you he'd come around, look at the bruise on your arm and say, 'Do you want me to sign it?'"
You have to love watching Ichiro, but if you were spooky93 last summer, you had to hate that one day when the Mariners' star failed to get a hit. Remember that MLB.com Beat the Streak contestant? He was a little over a week away from winning the $1 million prize, but his streak ended at 48 consecutive games with a hit. Gotta hate that.
Cubs fans who think the only game in Chicago is on the North Side of town.
White Sox fans who scoff at Cubs fans and still bring up the whole 2005 thing.
The deeply intense, bubbling hatred you have for that owner in your Fantasy league who has not stopped rubbing it in since 2001 about how you passed up rookie Albert Pujols and he drafted him with the next pick, declaring that "this guy is gonna be special."
Getting thrown at. Batters hate that, but they know it is part of the drill. They will take only so much, and then at some point the benches will empty. Nothing will happen (we sometimes hate that), some people will get fined, but they will have fully expressed their hate until the next time they get thrown at a few weeks later.
All those fans around the national pastime who are going to give it to Alex Rodriguez whenever the Yankees are on the road this summer.
Love, love, love. It's not all you need. We need to hate, hate, hate:
That annoying No. 8 hitter who slaps a weak single just over the second baseman's glove, breaking up your pitcher's no-hitter in the late innings. You were so sure tonight was going to be history. In fact, you had used up all the memory on your digital camera and your cell phone camera because you had the best no-hitter photo album in the history of the world coming for all your friends overnight.
Pitch counts. We hate them. One hate, two hate, three hate. But we are told that they are a necessary fact of life, because guys like Joba Chamberlain have to be watched closely lest their arms go flying completely off and land in box seats. How did Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan manage to pitch for so long? What kind of pitch count did Bob Feller have? Spring Training means the dawn of pitch counting.
When mustard drips off your ballpark dog onto your brand-new customized jersey that you just bought at the MLB.com Shop, leaving yellow stains that are almost impossible to get out. Even worse is when you have on a home Cardinals jersey and the mustard spills just above the yellow bat, between the two birds. No, it couldn't possibly have landed on the bat where no one could see it. We hate when that happens.
Doublehaters. You know what that is, right? When your favorite player goes 0-for-5, and it not only contributes to your team's loss, but he also is on your Fantasy roster.
Umpires. There, we said it. That is just tradition, how we were always taught. Nothing is funnier than when Lou Piniella goes out there and picks up a base and throws it on behalf of the fans, or at least the ones wronged.
"They hate me just like they hate every other umpire," Ria Cortesio said back in 2001, when she was umpiring in the Class A Midwest League and the only female ump in the pros.
Players who don't go all out. Not even going to mention any names here. Fans are largely a hard-working bunch, toiling seemingly more hours every year, taking their work home with them. And when they go out to the ballpark, they want to see a work ethic, not a guy who hits a maybe-homer and strolls toward first, then is forced to turn on the jets when he sees it clank off the wall. We hate that.
Long restroom lines. Fortunately, all these new ballparks have better and better facilities for those of us who like to enjoy our frosty libations in the early innings. We hate missing a whole inning seeking relief. Word has it that Mets and Yankees fans are going to celebrate this new facet of fandom in 2009.
What do you hate this Valentine's Day? We know you love Spring Training, the fact that pitchers and catchers are reporting. We know you love the pastoral game and your favorite players and the charm and the sophisticated beauty of baseball. Cue the violins. This is not your story. Our research shows that:
Red Sox fans hate the Yankees.
Yankees fans hate the Sox.
Actually, the Yankees long ago cornered the North American market on being hated. That is because they (a) have won 26 world championships and (b) are also so loved. It comes with the territory. Consider this 1981 quote from longtime Chicago columnist Mike Royko: "Hating the New York Yankees is as American as apple pie, unwed mothers and cheating on your income tax."
Getting hit with a pitch. If you played youth baseball, why did it always seem like it was the fastest heat possible from some huge pitcher on the coldest day? And let's not forget how much we hated fouling one off the bat handle on that cold day, and how long it took to get feeling back into your hands.
People move around more today than they used to. That means a lot of us find ourselves living in enemy territory. You might be a Cubs fan displaced down in St. Louis. You might be a Giants fan working in Hollywood among Dodgers fans. We hate that. But thankfully, there is MLB.TV Premium.
We hate reading, watching, talking about steroids, even though we apparently have to in this era. We hate knowing there is no way yet to test for human growth hormone, and we hate wondering if we are really past all that chemical cheating.
We don't like broken bats, but at least they are made of wood.
Not everyone in the starting lineup at the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis will be the player having the best season at his position. We love having superstars and seeing them in the Midsummer Classic, but we hate when we feel outvoted by market size. We will hate some of the selections this year as we always do.
We hate not being able to get a ticket to a big game.
But if you hate finding out that your seat is the worst one in the house, just remember what Bill Veeck once said: "I have discovered in 20 years of moving around a ballpark, that the knowledge of the game is usually in inverse proportion to the price of the seats."
Don't hate being there. Hate not being there.
You probably hated getting rid of baseball cards that might be really valuable now.
The season will end early for fans of 29 teams, and for 22 of those it will end without our favorite team making it to the postseason. That is absolutely the thing we hate most in baseball, bar none. It's our game and we want it to last as long as possible.
We hate having to wait all winter.
We hate losing once they start playing again.
It's time for Spring Training. Some guys are going to come out smokin' and go on to Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards.
Some will hit a slump.
We hate slumps. We love when our guys get hits. Love, love, love. All you need is love this Valentine's Day, but you need to love some haters, too.