Skip to content

Ten Things I learned from my trip to Spring Training

Mar 11, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT

Today is my first day back at work in the fortified compound and I’m just now starting to feel back in the swing of things. It’s a good time, then, to look back at my ten days in the desert and talk about some of the things that stuck out, for better, for worse, for important and for not. So here’s what I learned, in no particular order:

1. Yasiel Puig is a big young (?) man

source: API saw the Dodgers four times. Just a quirk of the schedule, I guess. Cuban import Yasiel Puig played in all of those games. And he generally looked pretty good. He’s a big, big fellow who hit a home run against the Indians a week ago Sunday that may still be flying someplace. Just impressive power and I’m rather high on his chances to make an impact. But something else notable: at the risk of breaking my “don’t make accusations unless you have some proof” rule, I will say that if Puig truly just turned 22 years-old like the Dodgers say he did he’s the most mature 22 year-old I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m totally wrong — and I’ll admit I’m just speculating off the old eyeball test — but the guy looks like he could have teenage children of his own. Maybe it doesn’t matter. And I’d say a much bigger problem for him and the Dodgers is his tendency to swing at fastballs in his eyes. But I don’t know if I’d be giving this guy seven year contracts.

2. Jurickson Profar looks overmatched

A guy who is more reliably young, the Rangers’ infielder and baseball’s top prospect Jurickson Profar, looked pretty overmatched in the early going. I saw him play twice and his at bats looked … unplanned. When he did have a decent idea of what was coming he didn’t handle it well. And this was against pitchers who were still working on stamina and things and weren’t trying to be too fine. I know spring stats should be ignored, but it’s hard to ignore how ineffective Profar has been so far. To the extent Rangers fans are hoping for him to have a big impact, their hope may be better saved until he’s had a bit more seasoning down on the farm.

3. My heart is going to be broken by Nate Robertson and/or Scott Kazmir, I can just feel it.

I got to witness two potential comeback stories in Arizona: Nate Robertson, who is remaking himself as a sidearmer after so much time away, and Scott Kazmir, who is trying to come back from friggin’ oblivion. Both looked good when I saw them. Robertson was downright inspirational when I talked to him.  But part of me — the very pessimistic part of me that I wish wasn’t there sometimes — keeps saying “everything seems great the first week of March, don’t get your hopes up.”  There are stories about guys on these sorts of comebacks every year. I always want them to work. Sometimes they do. I hope these two do.

4. It’s spring training for fans anticipating home runs, too.

I think every single fly ball I saw in Arizona was met by a host of fans going “whooo!” or making some other noise that suggested they thought it was a home run when, most of the time, it was a mid-range fly ball. People in Arizona are dedicated fans to be sure. But they’re not necessarily as informed and savvy as the folks back home. Well, this guy was, but he was a wonderful exception.

5. The World Baseball Classic is a lot of fun if you’re actually at the games.

source: Getty ImagesI saw two WBC games on Friday: Canada vs. Italy and Mexico vs. USA. The former featured a near empty Chase Field, the latter a nearly full Chase Field with a raucous and crazy crowd. The former was a mercy rule game, with Canada getting its clock cleaned, the latter a closer game for a while at least, but not really a barn burner. Though it wasn’t the best baseball ever and though I have been generally lukewarm about the WBC, the games were better than all of the spring training games by a longshot because there was a greater intensity about them and a clear sense that, yes, the players cared if they won.  That doesn’t mean the WBC is great, but it does suggest that the whole “the games are too early and should be moved to a different part of the year” criticism isn’t necessarily the best one. Good baseball can be played in March. Oh, and if you play your cards right you can get yourself on national television, looking silly, while at one of the game.

6. It’s way more interesting to talk to baseball players about non-baseball things.

I interviewed more players this year than I ever have. And though I’m still a total novice at the clubhouse beat compared to just about every reporter out there, I’ve realized that for the most part I am not all that interested in talking to ballplayers about baseball. OK, that’s an exaggeration. Talking specifically about their craft and their career arcs and things are interesting, but (a) “how ya feeling after today’s start;” (b) “tell us about the pitch from Shlabotnik in the fifth; and (c) “how do you think the ballclub is going to do this year” jive is boring.  I want to hear more about Corey Hart and Batman, thanks. Or ballplayers’ other random interests. Or stuff from the periphery of the game. The on-the-field action almost always speaks so much better for itself than someone involved in it does two hours after the fact.

7. Spring training parks are weird.

This kind of speaks for itself. They all have their own little quirks. Except the music. They all play terrible, terrible pregame music.

8. A lot more adult fans bring gloves to the game than I thought.

I highlighted one leather-toting grownup in Scottsdale and many of you crawled out of the woodwork to tell me that you still bring gloves to games. I had no idea. I feel like this changes our relationship.

9. Diversity in baseball is not merely a black and white issue.

Early in my trip I visited the Giants, who have no U.S.-born black players on their roster. Which is odd. But which is not, contrary to what so many people like to say, indicative of a problem. Baseball may not look like it once did, but it is unquestionably more diverse than ever.

10. Everything is wonderful and everyone is happy and this will remain the case until about April 5th or so.

I guess the biggest takeaway from spring training is that there isn’t really a ton to take away. At least not early. Every team and every player, no matter how bad they were last year, thinks they’re looking good now. Every team and every player expects to remain healthy and for best case scenarios to reign supreme.  I’m sure there is some realism behind closed doors, and I suppose it’s a particular joy of baseball to have optimism return every spring. Renewal. The Song of the Turtle. All that jazz.  But logic and history tell us that half of these teams are gonna be terrible, a lot of these optimistic players will struggle and that no battle plan in recorded history has ever survived much beyond contact with the enemy.

That contact begins on the evening of March 31 for two teams and in the next couple of days after that for everyone else.  The results of that and the changes and adjusts made in response thereto are what’s going to matter. Almost nothing that happened in the Greater Phoenix Arizona area in the first couple of weeks of March will.

Latest Posts
  1. Kelly Johnson goes on Yankees’ disabled list with groin injury

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:48 PM EDT

    Kelly Johnson Yankees Getty Images

    Kelly Johnson isn’t as needed in the Yankees’ lineup following the trade for Chase Headley and now he won’t be available at all for a while, as the utility man has been placed on the disabled list with a strained groin.

  2. Nationals place Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:23 PM EDT

    Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals

    As expected Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been placed on the disabled list after injuring his hamstring during last night’s game.

  3. The dizzying intellect of Tom Glavine

    Jul 23, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

    Braves v Yankees X Getty Images

    Tom Glavine crafted his Hall of Fame career with plenty of skill and wit.

  4. Jeff Francoeur, now an outfielder/pitcher, gets call up to Padres

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    jeff francoeur getty Getty Images

    After back-to-back terrible seasons Jeff Francoeur’s chances of returning to the majors looked so bleak that last month he decided to take up pitching at Triple-A for the Padres’ affiliate, but now San Diego is actually calling him up and presumably he’ll mostly serve as an outfielder.

  5. Meanwhile, in the comic books

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:37 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.37.06 AM

    Remembering when the Avengers played baseball in the Astrodome

  6. Tim Lincecum saves it for utterly spent Giants

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Tim Lincecum Getty Images

    The Giants’ 9-6 victory over the Phillies lasted 14 innings, involved 16 pitchers throwing 507 times to the plate, took five hours and 46 minutes, included more cramping than a track meet for septuagenarians and it finally ended 7 minutes before 1 a.m. Wednesday morning at Citizens Bank Park when Tim Lincecum really and truly recorded his first career save.

  7. Jacob deGrom continues to be ridiculous

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 8.13.15 AM AP

    The converted shortstop is on a roll.

  8. Marlins interested in Jim Johnson (again)

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    Jim Johnson A's AP

    Oakland’s move to acquire Johnson and his $10 million salary from Baltimore never made a ton of sense this offseason and it’s worked out much worse than expected, as he almost immediately lost the closer gig and has a 6.25 ERA with 23 walks in 40 innings.

  9. L.J. Hoes hit a homer for his mom last night

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 8.11.04 AM Getty Images

    Jeez, Mrs. Hoes. You should’ve asked sooner!

  10. Phillies drawing lots of interest in Antonio Bastardo

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Philadelphia Phillies v Colorado Rockies Getty Images

    While we wait to see if the Phillies will end up trading aces Cole Hamels and/or Cliff Lee, it sounds likely that reliever Antonio Bastardo will be moved before July 31.

  11. Verducci: baseball should think about an “illegal defense” rule to combat shifts

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:28 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.19.46 AM Getty Images

    One of baseball’s top analysts advocates for one of the dumber ideas you’ll hear in a long while.

  12. Ryan Zimmerman leaves Nats game with a strained hamstring

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 7.41.45 AM AP

    Zimmerman has missed 44 games this year. He’s about to miss more.

  13. Chase Headley plays the hero in his first game in pinstripes

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 8.41.58 AM AP

    Off the plane a half hour before game time, the hero by midnight.

  14. Photo: Jack White really enjoyed the Cubs game last night

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT

    Camera

    A seven nation army couldn’t cheer him up.

  15. And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

    Jul 23, 2014, 7:17 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 6.23.57 AM AP

    Jonathan Lucory hit two homers last night, including the walkoff.

  16. Video: Derek Jeter surpasses Lou Gehrig for first place on Yankees’ all-time doubles list

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:24 PM EDT

    derek jeter getty Getty Images

    Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter made a little more history on Tuesday night against the Rangers …

  17. Marlins are not shopping Casey McGehee, might sign him to multi-year contract extension

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:37 PM EDT

    casey mcgehee marlins getty Getty Images

    Casey McGehee entered play on Tuesday evening with a batting average (.322) that is 54 points above his career mean (.268) and an RBI total (56) that ranks ninth in the National League. The 31-year-old third baseman fits the mold of a sell-high candidate. But it doesn’t sound like he’s going to be moved.

Featured video

Teams searching for trade deadline impact
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Street (3665)
  2. C. Lee (2814)
  3. T. Tulowitzki (2606)
  4. H. Ramirez (2538)
  5. Y. Puig (2369)
  1. T. Walker (2307)
  2. C. Headley (2301)
  3. B. Belt (2157)
  4. M. Trout (2123)
  5. D. Price (2120)