Here's the Scoop: February 26, 2014

Leather season is here
It’s nine degrees this morning. The stiff breeze shaves quite a few additional degrees off the thermometer in terms of wind chill. Despite temperatures near 50 over the weekend, there’s still a thick blanket of snow all around.
The winter trudges on and there’s little for us non-snowbirds to do about the situation, but look ahead to better days. And read about baseball.
For those of you who may not be baseball fans (shame on you), I’m not really sure how you bridge the gap between the drag of winter and first green sprouts of spring. If you’re a baseball fan, you’re already feeling optimistic about the end of winter being in sight. If you’re not a fan, there’s still time. “Try it, you’ll like it,” as they used to say in the classic Alka-Seltzer commercial.
No matter how crappy the weather or how depressing other issues may be, baseball provides a nice escape from these realities. Generally, it’s a warm escape, too, since spring training sites in Florida and Arizona are usually pretty comfortable places at this time of year.

Get away from it the old ballgame
When I need a mental escape from the weather (and everyday life), I scan the sports section of the newspaper for interesting tidbits. Or, I check baseball websites to see the latest news. For instance, baseball has a new rule this year aimed at limiting injuries to catchers by reducing collisions caused by runners with a full head of steam trying to turn catchers (wearing the “Tools of Ignorance”) into Spam. Seems reasonable. I love reading the comments from “fans” who think catchers should be rough and tough and be ready to get drilled. That’s easy for someone to write — with the foolproof protection of a keyboard!
No baseball discussion would be complete without people arguing over the salaries paid to players. Who cares? Really. No one complains that Johnny Depp makes $20 million per movie. How many World Series has he won? Give me Johnny Damon in his prime any day.

Are you really outraged?
Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs)? Really. Who cares? Look at players in every major sport — even female tennis players look like Popeye. These athletes are just trying to be their best. And get richer. True, they are idiots for putting this stuff in their bodies, but spare me the outrage.
The truly awesome thing about baseball is that the sport is little changed. Players are bigger and stronger (even without PEDs), but putting the bat on the ball and pitching and catching the ball are still the basics. It’s a sweet game. With no time limit. Folks who complain about the length of games are missing the point. They simply aren’t real fans. Part of the beauty of the sport is that anything can happen — and no ticking clock will determine the outcome.
Another cool part of spring training is that even the worst teams express optimism about their prospects for the upcoming season. “You’ve got to play 162 games,” is a common refrain. And they can’t start soon enough.
— Brian Sweeney