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MondoLinks:18 days until pitchers report!

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The world now belongs to baseball. And a reminder to all of us, we fans are a superstitious lot, but for valid reasons. Use your powers for good. Because with great power, comes great responsibility.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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Coaches exist to make the decisions, often times they are hard decisions that need to be made in tough times. The world rarely remembers any of the millions of decisions made in unimportant times, especially all those decisions that go right. Those are mechanical. Those are inevitable. Those are credited to the players.

But when a coach makes a decision that goes horribly wrong, and those only come at inopportune moments, the world never forgets. Never. It's why August 1st is no longer on our calendar. It's why Kole Calhoun will never attempt to bunt again. It's why Grady Little will never shed his relationship with an exhausted Pedro Martinez. And it's why Pete Carroll will never again take the ball out of the hands of one of the best running backs in all of football with only inches needed to win a championship. Because, after all, he's made that kind of mistake twice now.

But if you are an anti-Patriots person, as I know 99.999% of you all are, don't curse Carroll. Don't curse Darrell Bevell. Stand down, for they are innocent. It was fate. Kismet. Inevitability. Certitude. It was a cinch. It was me. Me and my own ritual. And one can of beer. See my essay below for an explanation.

P.S. - Was it just me, or did any of you feel like somebody sent out a message to advertisers to get together and create a plethora of feel-good-for-family, feel-good-for-dads, commercials? Also, I don't know a thing about Katy Perry, but that half time show sure beat the hell out of marching bands lining up like UFOs while trying to poof out Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra.

(OT: File this under, "We predict that this is going to be the worst ever", thus "Forget what you think you saw, this wasn't exciting because we told you it wasn't going to be.")

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Elsewhere in the Heavens of Anaheim: So the big news since Friday is a one year agreement between the Halos and the rapidly returning Garrett Richards$3.2 million for 2015. It's an interesting figure, is it not? From one perspective it's a hell of a lot of money for 20 - 30 days of work. From another perspective it's a great bargain for the yield, in the context of player pay throughout baseball. And from a third perspective it's an important tracking figure due to the leveraging impact, or lack of any, it will have on future contract bumps...............By the way, this leaves Matt Joyce as the final arb holdover............Rocky Bridges, one of the original MLB Angels and a coach over a couple of spells in the 60's, passed away over the weekend. I do recall him, but my memory fogs and I don't recall him distinctly.This appears to be a significant loss on my part, as some research will pull up more than a few gems. He was 87...........Roberto Baldoquin will not be invited to Spring Training. Shouldn't that bolster the perspective of the LAA farm system just a little bit?............By the way, the list of invitees is here.

Around Baseball: Here you go: how to mow your lawn in style, from the pros..............Zack Grienke is turning into a risky business associate, is he not?..............Baseball is heating up in Baltimore..........Ok, so about that rule change idea from Theo Epstein I posted on Friday, forcing teams to keep a reliever in for TWO batters? Here is a variation on that theme brought back to life by Dave Cameron: limit teams to 4 total pitchers over the first 9 innings............I also made quick mention on Friday of Tom Brady's potential as an MLB player. Well, apparently so was Russell Wilson. "Average" speed? "Average" arm? Hits the wrong target? Sounds like another Jeff Mathis to me. Follow along this Spring as he dons a uni with the Rangers..........The Yankees are going pretty far to turn the screws on Alex Rodriguezeven to the point of walking away from their contractual bonus obligations. But we know how fickle fans and franchises can be. What will be their tune if a pennant race heats up and ARod carries the Yanks on his back into the post-season? Hmmm???..........Here is your 2015 Opening Day logo.

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An Essay on the Ritual of a Fan

We sports fans have a fatal flaw. A scheme that mocks us, and allows others to make mockery of us. It is a conceit, a vanity, a foolish faith of childish origin that strips us of dignity and our hard-earned regard as an intelligent and rational follower of our pastime, and belies any trust we have in our chosen heroes.

It is, in word, superstition. And I suffer under it as significantly as any. As much as any of you, and as much as any you might now or ever know. It is, in practice, another thing. A very real thing. Something that defies logic and understanding, requiring an odd feedback loop that warps through time to render a prophecy made by one's self, fulfilled by the very same personage. I raise this today in recognition of this phenomenon. It will happen often in the season to come, and in the many to come beyond this. Not just by me, but by many...maybe even many of you. And the only foolish thing is that which others do in an effort to deny the odd way our world works as a sports fan.

Last night, by fair example, I rolled through an hour of life as a fan in hope that my superstition of choice would carry the day. It did, thus reinforcing (to me) that real thing. That very real thing.

As you can read for yourself in my profile, I am a fan of the New England Patriots. Dismaying, I do know. It's difficult to be a Patriots fan, mostly because the Patriots have these things called fans. Insufferable, arrogant, churlish and hostile. They are full of a sense of entitlement fabricated out of the whole cloth of (nonsensically) being owed some special things after so much misery. And yet, at the same time full of that other sense of entitlement that comes from inordinate success. I hate them, too. But I make no apologies for myself. I was a fan before most of them and I am not about to let them take that from me. (Yes, I did suffer years of angst, and will again someday, but I don't feel that grants me any special obligation from anyone or anything.) Thank God I live so far away.

Anyway, by now you know that last night worked out pretty well for me. But here is the thing; when it was not, when my team was down by 10 points late, I did that very real thing. In my beer fridge remained a single, last, Christmas gift of a can of Heady Topper. A classic New England brew of global renown, discussed here on HH as recently as this past Friday. Think about this: from New England...greatness...contained...brought to me and placed into my hands as a special gift. How could this be any form of accident at this time of need? I deemed that this would be my totem, surely a lucky ale that required attention from me in order for fortune to turn. To the fridge I went, and popping the top of this final can the gasses of providence escaped and sent forth their power to change the history now at my doorstep.

Like any faithful fan immersed by tension into the warming bath of superstition, I began to sip. And observe. And fortunes turned immediately. That these same fortunes has been swinging back and forth, and forth and back, of their own volition for hours now. And that the swing was set to run its course in my direction anyway, mattered not then, nor matter now. But, as a fan, don't we all raise the question at this timing, and don't we all throw ourselves onto the side of the river that is known as "Cause", ignoring that foreign shore peopled by the more rational citizens who call their place "Coincidence"? Surely we do. Surely we must.

Another sip.

More success.

The tide had turned and remained with me all the way though the slowly emptying can.

Then, in a mad rush to the end, too fast to ward off by parrying with my beverage, fate chose to rise up and twist the blade as it had in other, recent, finales. One last taunt to remind me of the ultimate mortality of my fandom's hope. Another lucky this by my foe, another miracle that, and how rapidly then a mere 18 inches stood between me and yet another shocking thrust of everlasting pain. One more prick of the Needle of Ignominy to be born to the ending of my days.

But left in my can was yet three good sips of Heady. I still had the power. Down one.

A brilliant response! A pass?? A boneheaded decision that could only be made one out of a hundred chances, resulting in an outcome that only occurs once in a hundred tries! An interception??? Huzzah!!

After shouts and leaps and grappling and shaking of my opponent fans, and after the breathless dancing and prancing, a turn back to the event itself revealed that the woods were not clear. There was still a way to find tragedy. The risk remained (kneel down - touchback - punt - pass completion - field goal - LOSE!). But I still had power. Down two.

Again! An even more amazing response!! Infraction into the neutral zone?? Who does that, then? There? But let's not ask "why?", for we know the "why"!

A kneel down. A clock expired. A celebration. And one final sip of power left for the toast. Down three.

So it is. A belief in the fantasy that one nameless minor person sitting hundreds of miles away doing something as inane as drinking a beer should have the potency to alter the future and bend events into outcomes most favorable to that one person's personal fancy. And, as that person goes through ritual, that which happens, happens. Thus, for that person, it becomes that real thing. For now and ever more, it becomes that very real thing.

It's what we do, we fans.

(It's hard to make out, because being a good photographer was not at the top of my list at that moment. But here is proof!)

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