With the Rays victory (defeat) today they start spring training off on the right (wrong) foot. This win over the Red Sox (loss to the Pirates) means that the team is on pace to not lose (win) a game this year which would certainly smash previous records. The Red Sox, on the other hand, look like they may not win a game this year. Particularly disconcerting has to be the “return” of John Lackey who, ahem, lacked any semblance of looking like his former (steroids?) self.
Spring training is like the old friend that’s in town for a day or three (often me) that is fun to see again. At first. The friendly face and off-color jokes are fun and everyone has a good time. Then they continue into the second day. Then they drag into the third day. Then once the tension can be cut with a utility knife it’s time to move on. Well Spring Training just got here and it’s going to be drinking all your beer and eating all your food for well over a month. Get used to it.
Fortunately, MLB.tv is planning on showing tons of games this year. This is good, because in the past the baseball junkie could only get their fix by following on the radio, checking box scores, or if they’re particularly blessed they could cut work and go to the ballpark. The first two do not tell you anything about how a player looks and the last isn’t as much help as you think once you get past the booze and yelling. Most intelligent fans realize that spring training records are virtually meaningless as a predictor of regular season success. Likewise, batting/pitching lines over the next month don’t really tell you a whole lot either. If Andy Sonnanstine shows up and throws 20 innings without allowing a run he’s not entering the rotation. If Jose Canseco finds a home and clubs 12 dingers it doesn’t matter. You cannot glean practically anything of use from these box scores and stat lines.
You CAN, however, use your eyeballs to gather information. How quick is a batter out of the box, around the bases, throwing to second? How much range are you seeing out of the fringe shortstop/center field prospect? Does a batter look comfortable taking balls and swinging at hittable pitches and is he then barreling the ball? There is still information out there that can prove useful if you’re willing to sit back, shut up, and watch the games. There are still things that you can find encouraging. One thing I like today is that after nubbing a first pitch offering back to the mound, Wil Myers was able to coax a walk in his second opportunity. It can get exciting when a guy goes from squeezing splinters in one at bat to relaxing and adjusting in his next.
There are plenty of nuggets out there just waiting to be mined so good luck as you sift through flotsam and jetsam and even better luck on distinguishing pyrite from the real thing. Personally, I can’t wait to be wrong about this, that, and the other thing, while secretly just hoping for good health. We didn’t land on Spring Training, Spring Training landed on us. How will you react?