"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Take Spring Training and Shove It

Okay, so I don’t entirely mean that headline. As usual, I’ve been looking forward to spring training since late November. In fact, I always have to stop myself from needlessly capitalizing it — Spring Training — because it seems like it ought to be some kind of official holiday, like Christmas or Independence Day.

So it’s not that I’m not happy that, starting this weekend, we’ll get something vaguely resembling real baseball news. It’s just that I don’t actually want spring training — I want real baseball. Spring training is a plate of carrot sticks and celery when you’re craving a huge hamburger and fries. It’s fine at first, but hardly a long-term substitute.

Sure, the first few days are blissful. Photos of Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada loosening up, stretching hamstrings and that sort of thing. Noting that someone got skinny and someone else fully enjoyed the holidays. Seeing all those shiny pitching prospects practically glowing with promise, before the real world tarnishes them. Seeing that, somewhere, skies are blue and the sun is shining, and the whole world isn’t like New York, covered in filthy gray slush. Yes, there is hope… yes, baseball is coming.

But: still not for six weeks. That’s the thing. Once you’ve looked at the sunny photos for a few days, and then a few weeks later once you’ve watched a few games, which are a pale imitation of real games in that no one really gives a hoot about them and the teams play accordingly, spring training is pretty much a six-week dry hump. If a player does well in spring training, it doesn’t mean he’ll do well in the regular season, so you can’t fully enjoy it. If he plays badly, you worry anyway even though, again, it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s good to see prospects you don’t normally get to see on television, but it’s no substitute for genuine baseball where the score is important, or at least as important as a baseball score ever is.

Of course, the good news there is that six weeks isn’t really such a long time. And I guess that’s why I still look forward to spring training… we’re not out of the dark yet, but it’s the light at the end of the tunnel.

Categories:  Emma Span  Spring Training

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:12 am

Hate spring training. Seems to drag on forever, full of people no one on earth could possibly want to watch, seems to drag on forever, pointless "competitions" with predetermined results, seems to drag on forever, lousy players somehow seem to catch a job because of ten games, seems to drag on forever...

And I'd still watch it over the World Baseball Classic.

Wake me up on opening day

2 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:42 am

[1] It's like gasping for air, really... football was over for me three weeks ago, basketball hasn't been interesting for over a decade and hoc... well, never mind. Without spring training, there is absolutely no hope.

3 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:51 am

"a six weep dry hump."
Brilliant, Emma, as usual.
And the whole piece, truly, spot on.
My feelings exactly, to the letter.
Well done.

4 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:52 am

(That said, I trust we'll all agree that a dry hump is better than no hump, especially given the full monty hump is guaranteed, so we're not even talking about sadistic teasing that comes to nothing.)

5 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 10, 2011 3:03 am

[4] So then, watching Yankee Classics would be... (chronic?)

6 Ken Arneson   ~  Feb 10, 2011 3:52 am

Fine, I'll be the voice of disagreement, then. I dislike the two weeks between reporting and playing, but I love spring training once the games start. To continue the innuendo, I like being able to enjoy beauty without the complications of desire. I wouldn't want to live a whole life without desire and desire fulfilled, but I find the respite refreshing. I don't have to pay attention to who wins, and that frees me to listen to other things--the crack of the bat, the pop of the ball hitting the pocket of the glove, the rustling of the crowd, the familiar old voices of our favorite announcers, the rhythm of the innings flowing by.

7 Just Fair   ~  Feb 10, 2011 7:55 am

[0,3] That's the line that jumped out at me, too.
No wonder i am so chafed by opening day. : )

8 monkeypants   ~  Feb 10, 2011 8:46 am

As silly as it is for a player to make an ML roster because of a handful of fake games, I actually like spring training (only) when there is the sense that players are competing for roster spots. But on the Yankees, where in general the entire roster is basically fixed---not only who will make teh team, but what role each will have---spring training is one long bore. And to think that people pay good money to watch practice...er, I mean exhibition ga...er, I mean preseason games.

Of course, this season the Yankees do have a couple of roster "batttles": whether Nuñez can unseat Peña as the universal BUIF, whether Sergio Mitre will be named by Girardi as the #4 or #5 starter after a theoretically open competition; whether a pitching prospect will displace the gaggle of retreads signed for the #5 spot, or if they will all be converted to middle relievers, etc. But none strike me as compelling.

The only spring-training-drama that interests me remotely is whether the Yankee brain trust has the balls and flexibility to get Montero 300+ PAs as the BUC/BUDH, or if we will be subjected to 60 games of Cervelli (or more, depending on injuries).

9 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 10, 2011 8:49 am

[6] I'm with Ken here, though I'll go even farther.

I love spring training, from the moment pitchers and catchers report until the very end. Its a welcome part of the ritual of the baseball year for me, a necessary step on the way to Opening Day and ultimately, the Serious. Is the baseball meaningless, compared to the reality of the regular season and beyond? Sure, for all of the reasons that Emma so artfully stated. But baseball is baseball, and I'll gladly take it.

And I wouldn't say its a six week dry hump - I'd call it an awful lot of foreplay.

10 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 10, 2011 8:53 am

another great piece, Emma, but I love spring training. Sure, it drags a bit toward the end, the last two weeks move at the speed of Posada. But I love the leisurely pace of the games. I love seeing the kids, even the ones we'll probably never see again, the ones who wear numbers as high as the average age of a 60 Minutes correspondent. I love watching the pitchers tinkering and experimenting with their secondary pitches, and the batters working the rust out of their swings. The results aren't always pretty, and the games are completely meaningless, but to me it beats the heck out of no baseball at all.

11 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 10, 2011 9:45 am

[6] I am with Ken...the weeks before games can be a tease, but once they start playing, I really enjoy it. It's almost like ST for me as a fan. I get to follow the games, but not invest much emotion until the season gradually nears. Then, you start caring about certain performances as it pertains to who winds up making the team.

One of my favorite parts about the games are listening to one of the late night broadcasts out of Arizona and hearing all the wonderful sounds Ken mentioned, all while getting some insight into other teams around the league.

12 bp1   ~  Feb 10, 2011 11:10 am

After a long winter like this one - Spring Training (capitalized) is a blessing. Given that YES seems to have sold its soul to British soccer, and MLB Network plays the same lame shows over and over again in a loop, we get very little baseball at all anymore, classic or not.

I like the silly preview shows, the "he's in the best shape of his life" reports, the video of guys taking ground balls, the small ballparks and small crowds, and the fact that it never more resembles a *game* than during those silly weeks in Feb and March. I eat it up like a bowl full of spaghetti and meat balls. Yum!

The games are not must-see watch-till-the-end affairs of the regular season, but it's nice to watch a couple innings after dinner while the kids are doing home work or whatever. The crack of the bat makes me smile, and gives me hope that the snow along my driveway will melt eventually.

13 thelarmis   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:38 pm

i'm glad baseball is back and upon us. but i don't like spring training. only thing i really pay attention to is injuries. and, yeah, i don't like the wbc, either. i'm all about MLB regular & postseason.

14 Raf   ~  Feb 10, 2011 5:06 pm

I enjoy Spring Training. Anytime I get to see baseball is a good time. I even enjoyed the Serie del Caribe that ended earlier this week. Exhibition games, the WBC, bring em all on. It's baseball, can't go wrong with it.

I like watching players that were acquired during the previous offseason, or the puff pieces that someone has come to camp in the best shape of their lives. Or the wily veteran who is hanging on for another season. Or the rookie that has come to camp trying to win a job. There are many stories during ST, some good, some bad, some cliched. But after a winter that seems to go on forever, Spring Training is a welcome distraction.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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