Spring Training: A Love/Hate Relationship


It’s only been two weeks, but I’m ready for spring training to be over and the regular season to start.

Don’t get me wrong: Baseball’s back, and it’s exciting. I understand the thrill that comes from new seasons, fresh starts, and seeing the guys back in uniform and on the field. Fans finally have games to watch, box scores to pore over, and radio broadcasts to listen to (a welcome addition to my day no matter how irritating John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are).

But spring training isn’t the same. The circumstances are different. Starters are in and out of games before the 5th inning, and the quality of the lineups, pitching, and defense can vary each game. I’m going to need real baseball games back — and quick — for a couple reasons:

Spring Training brings out the worst in overreaction:

It goes a little something like this in the blogosphere and the New York papers: Alex Rodriguez had a 3-hit game and a home run off Roy Halladay, and if that doesn’t scream completely healthy and ready to have a huge season I don’t know what does. Ignore that he also had a good spring last year, because it doesn’t fit the narrative of his resurgence. Oh, and it’s time to worry about Robinson Cano, because, unlike Rodriguez, he isn’t hitting much. Remember the good old days when Miguel Cairo was the second baseman? Then there’s Michael Pineda’s velocity issues, which is a sure sign he’s going the way of 2011 Phil Hughes, and Brian Cashman probably made a mistake when he gave up Jesus Montero for this guy.

That is, of course, an exaggeration — albeit a slight one. I wasn’t surprised to see a few variations of the “Ivan Nova Bounces Back” headline after his start against the Red Sox last night. It’s just another example of one of the more frustrating things about spring training: the news and storylines that dominate baseball coverage in March. Both fans and the media are guilty of getting too worked up over the results of each game — good or bad. Too much importance is placed on four weeks worth of (limited) playing time, even though we all know spring training stats are largely insignificant and should be taken with a grain of salt.

The games aren’t completely meaningless, and spring training obviously has its uses  – players getting back into shape, getting their timing down, experimenting with new pitches or tweaking their mechanics, to name a few – but one thing it’s not is a sure-fire predictor of regular season performance for a team or an individual after 10 games.

On a somewhat similar note: Yes, it’s fun to keep tabs on prospects you don’t otherwise see too much of, but it’s entirely unnecessary to update me with a play-by-play of Zoilo Almonte’s at-bats, or stress yourself out over how many runs Adam Miller gives up in one inning of work.

There are no surprises coming out of Tampa in April:

Besides David Robertson’s injury scare, nothing too exciting has happened at Yankee camp this spring – and that’s a good thing. I’m not saying I’d prefer the Yankees to have lingering questions or huge weaknesses that went unaddressed in the offseason, but we know what to expect when Opening Day rolls around on April 6. And even though that’s preferable, it can take a little bit out of the fun out of it, because there isn’t much in the way of a battle for a position or spot on the major-league roster. The rotation is essentially set – with the exception of the pitching order and the “exciting” race between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for the 5th starter’s spot. Joe Girardi did try and convince us that Pineda didn’t have a guaranteed spot in the rotation, but I don’t know anyone with two brain cells who buys that.

Short of any injuries, the 25-man roster is good to go and the bullpen nearly finalized — the only real question being who gets the last spot in the pen, and whether or not it will be another lefty to complement Boone Logan.

Essentially, I spend the entire winter complaining about a lack of baseball, and then spend the entire duration of spring training complaining about the lack of meaningful games. I love that Major League Baseball is back, but I’m ready for Opening Day.

Now that’s something to get excited about.

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