DETROIT, MI - APRIL 24: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers misplays the ground ball off the bat of Alex Liddi #16 of the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of the game at Comerica Park on April 24, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
We have no place to complain, because we’ve done this to ourselves. We watch every telecast, read every article, comment on every pitcher who looks horrible like a three month old puppy who chews on everything he can sink his teeth into. I myself have written a short recap for nearly every single spring training game the Detroit Tigers have played this March. I really, honestly can’t stand doing it. It feels empty. Like I’m writing posts that dissolve as soon as I hit publish. But even I am a part of this evil debauchery that is modern day Spring Training and I won’t be stopping anytime soon because people want the analysis.
Like training camp in the NFL, MLB Spring Training has turned into the league’s catch-22: If a player dominates his performance is chalked up to "well it’s just spring training" and if a player flat out stinks people wave their hands and say "well it’s just spring training". It counts but it doesn’t count.
National and Beat writers create narratives in order to generate talk, blogs are armed to call them out and respond with awaiting fingers. Twitter is a minefield of volatile arguments and ridiculous trade scenarios.
The "Hope springs eternal" meme has turned into "my team sucks but it doesn’t suck as bad as yours" so, ha!
As our very own Lewie Pollis said on Tuesday (with much more class than I):
Such overreactions are human nature. We long to find patterns where they don't actually exist and make grandiose story-lines out of minutia. Combine that with the emotional outburst we all experience when some form of baseball finally comes back and it's no wonder we curl up into the fetal position when our teams start spring training 0-3.
It’s not like Spring Training is new. It’s been around since the game itself and there is a need for players to train, play with one another, and managers to make decisions on roster battles. Pitchers and catchers report in the middle of February, though most position players are in camp at the same time. The media spends that week romanticizing about certain players, ostracizing others and telling everyone how good or horrible they should expect to be. Remember, no actual fake games have been played yet.
The first full week of games see newcomers debuting and aging veterans optimistic about their ancient bodies lasting a full year; managers love the chemistry on their clubs. The second week sees position battle taking shape. Hot players make headlines, duds make the same amount of headlines. The third week the roster decisions are basically made, players begin getting hurt, articles like this are posted complaining about spring training and everyone cries that the games don’t matter.
The final two weeks are spent agonizing over the final two or three roster spots that were kind of decided the week before, big name players sit as they focus on not getting hurt, pitchers "getting work in" that could easily be accomplished in back fields.
But we must sit through the painful weeks until the games actually matter. This year we’ve had two games that already matter, yet the teams are returning to the states to….resume spring training until the first week of April.
Spring Training is simply too long. Players could report in the first week of March and no one would lose any sleep. But the money teams make from Florida and Arizona won’t allow that to happen. Spring training is as ingrained into the second and third month of every year as Christmas in December or the NFL Combine.
So we are left to complain about it, write about it, revel in the pointlessness of it. It’s horrendous yet beautiful at the same time. Maybe we appreciate the start of the season even more because of it.
I don’t know how to answer any of those questions, so excuse me while I go put my pants on and write about the Tigers pun-able fifth starter’s dueling it out over the final week.