Mar 11, 2013, 4:30 PM EST
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
I 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.
I 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.
Dec 12, 2013, 11:00 PM EST
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is enjoying a nice season. His team is 11-2 and has already clinched at least a Wild Card spot, and will likely soon wrap up the NFC West. What many have forgotten is that he was once a fourth-round pick by the Rockies in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft. He…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
The Montreal Gazette is reporting that one of Canada’s great cities could once again be a home for a Major League Baseball team as long as a new stadium is built in the downtown area. A study was performed by Ernst and Young and the law firm BCF, which found that it would cost Montreal…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:20 PM EST
Troy Renck of the Denver Post is reporting that the Rockies are close to signing left-handed reliever Boone Logan on a deal believed to be three years in length and around $15 million. The deal will not be finalized until Logan passes a physical. Logan, 29, is an eight-year veteran having spent time with the…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:15 PM EST
MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli confirmed a report that the Orioles have put a multi-year contract offer on the table with free agent closer Grant Balfour. Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports that a team has offered him a third-year vesting option, but it’s not the Orioles. He also adds that the right-hander has a two-year…
Dec 12, 2013, 8:25 PM EST
Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail is reporting that the Royals and Blue Jays have discussed a trade involving first baseman-slash-DH Billy Butler. He clarifies that there has been no movement on a deal beyond the initial discussions, and adds that the Jays would receive prospects along with Butler in such a deal. It’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 7:30 PM EST
Another potential suitor has joined the Omar Infante sweepstakes: the Cincinnati Reds. But, as Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports, they would need to move current second baseman Brandon Phillips first. Recently, the Yankees — sans Robinson Cano — and the Royals have had the strongest links to Infante. As for Phillips, the Reds offered…
Dec 12, 2013, 6:41 PM EST
The Mariners just held a news conference where they introduced new second baseman Robinson Cano after he officially signed his ten-year, $240 million contract. It was your standard presser involving a star player, but Cano and GM Jack Zduriencik both raised some eyebrows with some comments. Via Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune: “I…
Dec 12, 2013, 5:55 PM EST
The Mariners just posted this Vine, showing Robinson Cano adding his signature to his ten-year, $240 million contract with recently-embattled GM Jack Zduriencik to his right and agent Jay-Z behind him. As beard aficionado Aaron Gleeman pointed out earlier, Cano is sporting a nice new beard which would have violated the Yankees’ personal grooming rules.
Dec 12, 2013, 2:50 PM EST
Robinson Cano‘s official introductory press conference in Seattle is today and the Mariners just put out this picture of him wearing No. 22 … and sporting a beard, which was of course banned by the Yankees. Robinson will wear #22 #HelloCano pic.twitter.com/JJ9qKhf3Ct — Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) December 12, 2013 As a locally recognized beard-haver myself,…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:34 PM EST
Remember Kevin Kouzmanoff? He hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, but the Rangers just announced that they’ve signed him to a minor-league contract. Texas also did the same with utility infielders Josh Wilson and Brent Lillibridge, adding some bench options (or Triple-A depth). Kouzmanoff put up some nice power numbers with the Padres early…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:40 PM EST
Free agent right-hander Joba Chamberlain is leaving the Yankees to sign with the Tigers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Buster Olney of ESPN.com says it’s a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski is always looking to add high-velocity arms and despite his struggles Chamberlain averaged 94.7 miles per hour on his…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:10 PM EST
Jay Z lured Robinson Cano away from Scott Boras and then got him a $240 million contract with the Mariners, so naturally Boras took a couple shots at Beyonce’s husband yesterday: It’s very different to be the creator of the umbrella versus those who stand under it. … When you’re bringing the prettiest girl to…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:46 PM EST
Now that the Nationals are out of the left-handed reliever market after finally finding their southpaw yesterday some of the other dominoes can start falling, with Troy Renck of the Denver Post reporting that the Rockies are deep in talks with J.P. Howell. Howell is a soft-tosser, averaging just 87.4 miles per hour with his…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:12 PM EST
Clint Barmes has had back-to-back terrible seasons for the Pirates, hitting a combined .221 with a .579 OPS in 252 games, but Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that Pittsburgh has re-signed the 35-year-old shortstop for $2 million. Obviously the Pirates like Barmes for his defense, which has always been strong, although at age 35 that’s…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:32 AM EST
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is not a fan of the new rule banning home plate collisions. Indeed he’s so incensed that he decided to mock the idea of protecting athletes whose health and career are put at risk as a result of them: One of the game’s biggest stars — Buster Posey —…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:03 AM EST
The Rule 5 draft took place this morning. It’s traditionally the last thing that happens at the Winter Meetings, so there’s a bittersweet element to it I suppose. We all have to go home today. We all get to go home today. It’s like any vacation story I suppose. It’s not a terribly interesting event…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:47 AM EST
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the Marlins have traded outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs for outfielder Brian Bogusevic. Ruggiano was pushed into extended action for the Marlins this year and struggled, hitting just .222 with a .694 OPS in 128 games, but if limited to a part-time role he’s capable of…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Philadelphia has signed right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a one-year contract, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Hernandez–formerly Fausto Carmona before being busted for identity fraud–posted an ugly 4.89 ERA in 151 innings for the Rays this year while being bumped from the rotation. On one hand the Rays not being able to fix a pitcher…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
Looking to get his career back on track following a terrible season split between two teams, Michael Morse has agreed to a one-year deal with the Giants. Morse got off to a great start this year, but then hit just .201 with five homers and a .584 OPS in 64 games after May 1 while…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:27 AM EST
Both the New York Post and the New York Daily News decided that the best way to announce the Bartolo Colon signing on their back covers was to make fat jokes: Pretty pathetic, guys.
- Robinson Cano agrees to $240 million deal with Mariners (260)
- Not everyone is happy about home plate collisions being taken away (134)
- Report: Yankees have agreed to a three-year deal with Carlos Beltran (125)
- Brett Gardner is drawing “significant” trade interest (113)
- Managers, GMs to meet today to discuss the abolition of home plate collisions (113)