It’s that time of year again. The Padres are starting another baseball season in fine fashion. And similar to what happened during the first part of last year’s season, the fans are feeling extremely confident about the team’s prospects.
With the Padres making it to the middle of May right behind the Dodgers in second place, a strong positive buzz continues to circulate in the air. Taking into account a new manager, what appears to be a solid starting pitching rotation, and Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer wielding hot bats, many San Diegans already have visions of a Padres World Series appearance dancing in their heads.
A lingering pre-season injury to Fernando Tatis Jr., a feeling that the manager and front office executives rely too heavily on baseball analytics for on-field decisions, and the fact that the LA Dodgers have assembled a superstar team, have done little to discourage these early season visions of grandeur.
But you know what that means, right? It means we Padres fans must once again take a philosophical approach to whatever happens during the season. Yes, there is a chance for ultimate victory, but based on the team’s past it’s essential we mentally prepare for the worst. Accordingly, I am convinced that taking a philosophical approach happens to be the best way to maintain sanity if we are going to be loyal and enduring Padres fans.
What do I mean by a philosophical approach ? The dictionary defines such an approach as “a practice aimed at relieving suffering and shaping and remaking the self according to an ideal of wisdom.” Long-time Padres fans know all about having to deal with suffering; after all, the team has yet to win a World Series, and considering last year’s epic end-of-season collapse, there is good reason for being wary of once again getting our expectations too high.
Last September, when the Padres finished turning a once-promising season into a nightmare, I heard someone say we must “stoically” come to terms with being Padres fans. I found that statement to be so true. Think about it — to be stoic means to be “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.” That pretty much defines being an ideal long-time Padres fan.
In coming to terms with such Padres-induced pain and hardship, I think the Stoics — those adherents of a Roman-era school of philosophy — were definitely on to something. They believed in the virtues of self-discipline and moderation as a way of gaining wisdom; consistently stressing the importance of showing indifference to pain, pleasure, grief, or joy.
The most famous Stoic of all, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelias, is famous for espousing such profound Stoic pearls of wisdom as, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts,” and “When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love,” and “To live the good life. We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.”
In preparing for this year’s baseball season, I decided to skip over the traditional baseball wisdom articulated on ESPN talk shows in favor of reading the classic book Meditations of Marcus Aurelias. In doing so, I concluded the philosophy of Stoicism can indeed provide Padres fans with the requisite mental tools for dealing with whatever this season brings, no matter if the team goes to the World Series, or if it loses every game played at Dodger Stadium. Let me demonstrate below how Stoicism can help us cope, and perhaps even allow the acquisition of some wisdom in the process.
Take this famous Marcus Aurelias quote: “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”
If you are a Padres fan you merely need to edit this quote to read, ”How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised by anything which happens from employing the Padres bullpen in the last couple innings of a game.”
I can’t help but feeling I will be better able to handle a Padres loss if allowed to invoke that quote as a calming mantra at various points during the season.
Now, let’s try another Stoic quote, like the one that states, “Stay calm and serene regardless of what life throws at you.”
This quote can be adapted by Padres fans to read, ”Stay calm and serene regardless of what Padres pitcher Yu Darvish throws to opposing batters when he’s having a bad day on the mound.”
There’s also this notable Stoic quote, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not a truth.”
To handle the typical fan’s opinion that managers and front office executives rely too much on data instead of time-honed instinct, I suggest we revise it to read, ”Everything we hear about baseball analytics is an opinion. Everything we see about baseball analytics is a perspective, not the truth.”
Finally, there is also this Marcus Aurelius quote, ”Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
In light of our star shortstop’s motorcycle accident, I think we have to adopt this modification to read, ”Reject your sense of Fernando Tatis’ wrist injury, and the injury itself disappears.”
So fellow Padres fans, you now get the idea. Stoicism is a surefire way to maintain our mental equilibrium in the face of a typical Padres season of occasional highs and frequent lows. If we take a Stoic approach we will come out much wiser — and much less frustrated.
And if all else fails, there’s always next year.
Steve Rodriguez is a retired Marine Corps officer and high school teacher who last taught at Olympian High School in Chula Vista.