Today this usually lighthearted blogger must post about something serious. Hot Stove Grief or HSG, as the condition is known today, has been afflicting baseball fans for as long as there has been baseball and yet frank discussions of this serious illness have remained taboo until recently. In order to begin to bring comfort to HSG sufferers everywhere and heal the damage and upheaval this condition can cause in their relationships with uncomprehending friends and families, it is important for us all to learn to recognize the symptoms and stages of Hot Stove Grief:
Unrealistic Optimism – HSG sufferers experience a strong hope, bordering on and occasionally crossing over into belief, that their team’s front office will pull off increasingly fantastical free agency signings and trade agreements, often completely unsubstantiated by prior team behavior. Just to pull a completely random example out of thin air, the belief that the Angels were going to sign Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Adrian Beltre this off season, or any combination of two of them. In (also completely random) hindsight, owner Arte Moreno’s end of season comments that the Angels were going to spend big and do whatever it takes to improve the team just underscores the sad fact that Hot Stove Grief does not discriminate. Even baseball owners may suffer from this potentially debilitating condition from time to time.
Bargaining – HSG sufferers begin “bargaining” with the team of their affections, offering the team, its ownership or specific members in the front office the fan’s own services, heirloom jewelry, beloved vehicles, spouses and even theoretical first born children if the team will agree to fulfill the fan’s Hot Stove wishes. Of course, these bargaining conversations never really take place with the team. They are HSG delusions and usually take place in the form of conversations with friends and family, loud rants and begging directed at the television set/radio/newspaper/computer screen and, even, blog posts.
Anger – Eventually the HSG stages progress to anger. This may be the hardest stage for friends and family to deal with and every sufferer expresses it differently. It is important to remain supportive and allow the HSG suffering fan to express his or her feelings. If this becomes too difficult, you might subtly suggest that fan find other outlets to burn off their anger such as boxing, chopping wood or even blogging.
Threats – Many HSG sufferers begin threatening to carry out increasingly unlikely punishments if their team does not comply with the HSG sufferer’s Hot Stove wishes. Common threats include non-renewal of season tickets, never going to see a game again, renouncing one’s fanship entirely, burning prized team related possessions and even starting to root for the team’s most hated rival. As with the bargaining stage, the threat conversations never actually take place with the team in question.
Rationalization – In this stage, HSG sufferers begin to comfort themselves that the reason their team failed to make the Hot Stove move they were hoping for is part of some obscure, larger strategy and that surely an even better Hot Stove deal is imminent. Over indulgence in this stage can bring about a relapse where fans repeat the Anger and Threats stages. While there is some controversy among HSG researchers about whether Rationalization is its own unique stage or is simply one expression of the Unrealistic Optimism stage and the CDC has yet to validate either theory, I feel it warranted its own mention here.
Resignation – As HSG suffering fans begin to reach the end of their grief cycle, they become resigned to the idea that their team isn’t going to make any of the Hot Stove deals they had in mind. While friends and family might think the HSG afflicted fan is suffering less during this stage make no mistake, they are still experiencing a considerable amount of pain. Fans at this stage feel may a slight disconnect with their team and possibly even less passion for them. They may actually view the beginning of the new baseball season with a certain amount of apprehension and even dread. And what could be more painful than that?
Grudging Acceptance – At this stage the HSG suffering fan is still very unhappy with their team’s Hot Stove decisions or lack their of, but has accepted that there is nothing the he or she can do about said decisions and begins to move on. The fan is now able to enjoy interactions with their team again. This is the crucial breakthrough stage in HSG. Once the suffering fan honestly begins to look forward to Spring Training the new season again, the fan is cured. However, relapse is always a possibility.
While friends and family of the HSG afflicted fan should review this outline of the grieving stages carefully, it is important for them to understand that each fan’s grieving process is unique. If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from HSG, the most important thing is to remain loving and supportive. Listen when they want to rant and rave, even if you have heard it all hundreds of times before. Subtly try to involve the sufferer in activities that keep them from pouring over the trade rumors site all day long. But never, under any circumstances, should you try to sever the sufferer’s relationship with their team of choice. However much it may seem like you are doing them a kindness at the time, removing an HSG suffering fan from all contact with their team has been known to produce a severe catatonic state and sometimes even death.
Thank you very much for your time today. I now return you to your regularly scheduled MLBlogs programming.
Well that was a little longer in between posts than intended! No, the reason was not actually Hot Stove Grief. I have managed my personal bout with this illness admirably – made it to work every day, attended social functions and everything! Besides, I am coming to the end of my personal Hot Stove Grief. Barring any unforeseen set backs *glares at Angels Front Office* grudging acceptance is just around the corner. No, I have been putting in late nights and wee hours of the mornings all week finishing the latest stage in a policy writing project for work. Work – curse of the drinking (and apparently blogging) classes and all that. 😉