March 19, 2009
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Time not flying, and not yet begun

Though time begins on opening day (April 5), the signs of spring are coming. And they remind us that not everything changes beyond recognition, even in 100 years.

Suppose, instead of our fleet commander, Christy Matthewson showed up tomorrow and was told “you’re the manager of the Giants. Welcome home.” Matty last played for the Giants in 1916, so our time frame is roughly OK.

M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
Brain in in his arm.
 —Ogden Nash

Now, a lot will have changed. The Giants are in San Francisco now. They’re opening against Milwaukee. Where? Opening day is still 1:05, but tomorrow we have a night game. Yeah -- they have lights now. Bright lights.

Matty watches batting practice and worries, because the BP pitchers are throwing wicked heat. They’ll wear themselves out: he'll have to give them the lecture about pitching in a pinch. Eventually he gets the message: everyone here throws amazing fastballs, wicked curve balls, and something called a “slider” that’s like a screwball but much, much faster.

Then he sees infield practice, and again these kids make amazing plays as if they were nothing special. He can’t imagine how anyone hits these pitchers, or gets on base even if they did. So he asks the veteran sitting next to him, “What’d you hit last year?” And the answer is “.271/13/70, Mr. Matthewson” and they both know where they are.

And, when you come right down to it, while all the details have changed, the game is still the same. A sharp grounder to short is still out by a step; everything is faster but it's still an out. He can’t imagine how anyone can hit Lincecum, his starting pitcher, but the kid gives up way too many walks and throws a hell of a lot of pitches, and he’s slow. But Matty’s seen that before, too:

P is for Plank,
The arm of the A’s;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days.
 —Ogden Nash