The Off-Season (Advent) Shuffle

It's a mad, mad world. 

At least that is what I can't stop thinking about with all of the trades and signings that have both surprised and intrigued me. The Lord is soon to come at Christmas and I am preparing for that and baseball is helping me prepare.

With the influx of cash from TV contracts -- the Los Angeles Dodgers are in discussions with Fox for a deal worth $6 billion over 20 years and several other teams such as the Rangers, Yankees, and Angels with deals already in place that are worth over $1 billion -- the free agency market and many contract extensions for these clubs now dripping with cash have become unconscionable. 

To point, Zack Greinke, who is a very good (and on his day, a great) pitcher just signed a six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers, the richest contract ever for a right-handed pitcher. This money was given to a pitcher who has never won more than 16 games in a season and has a career ERA of 3.77. 

This means the Dodgers currently have payroll obligations of over $214 million dollars for next season -- the highest ever for a National League club and possibly the highest ever, depending on what the Yankees end up doing this off season. 

Add to that Thursday's news that Josh Hamilton, the best hitter available this off season, has signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and two of the three highest payrolls in baseball reside in the greater LA area -- a monumental shift in the baseball landscape that has been dominated, in terms of payroll, by the teams in the Northeast (primarily the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, and Phillies). 

Christmas, it seems, has come early in southern California this year. 

Consequently, the smaller market teams are forced to build contenders and acquire assets through trades, which has led to some pretty big deals this year, particularly the Kansas City/Tampa Bay trade (which sent James Shields, one of the most reliable and dominant pitchers of the past two seasons, and Wade Davis to Kansas City for their wunderkind prospect, Wil Myers) and the Cincinnati/Cleveland/Arizona trade (which saw a top prospect, a proven outfielder, and other pieces get moved around with the rare appearance of having improved each organization). 

In many ways, the off-season is to the regular season what Advent is to Christmas for Catholics. The mystery and beauty of the Incarnation is something that we know so well, something we have experienced so many times before that, if were not for the preparations of Advent, we would surely miss the fullness of what Christmas is truly all about. Baseball, too, is like that in that we know how the game is played, we know what it takes to win, but the off-season provides us with a time to tinker with our team, to add new pieces, to let old images and players move on, and to start the preparation process for what will hopefully be a championship. 

During Advent, much like the off-season, we can get caught up in the promises of future glory -- the presents, the championships, the big dinner, the victory parade -- and fail to do the work that is necessary for the best possible experience. Yet, what was is connected to what could be.

Pope Benedict wrote in Seek That Which is Above: "Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.… It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

I have no doubt that the fans in LA are looking at the stats of Hamilton and Greinke with hopes of the future glory of a World Series. My prayer is that each of us can prepare our hearts in the same way for the future glory of our Savior's Incarnation. May we look back onto our moral and spiritual victories, the graces and intercessions granted, and the love that surrounds us and truly prepare our hearts for the hope and the glory of Jesus Christ!