Wooden's World of Baseball

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spring Training Thoughts

Looking back at my post from this time a year ago, I can see some thoughts on spring training, so here are my takes on the Nationals and Red Sox...

...It's a whole new ballgame in Viera. Last year, the Smiley-gate fiasco hung in the air, with the eventual dismissal of Jim Bowden, who's now become the Michael Scott of GMs, past or present.
Now, it seems like a new attitude is pervading.

...Some of that, of course, is the virtual masturbation excitement surrounding #1 pick Stephen Strasburg who, for better or worse, has become the franchise's savior. I have mixed feelings about the prospect of him pitching in Potomac. Sure, it'll be great to see a blue-chip prospect that's on our team for once, but I'm concerned about having to fight off the crowd that seems certain to be there. That said, my seat is available for sale: asking price $840* per Strasburg start.
* Not coincidentally, the price for my entire season-ticket package

...As always, the Red Sox camp is more boring. Mostly, it's concern about the "distraction" about Mike Lowell, who's a man without a position after the acquisition of Adrian Beltre and is unlikely to split time with David Ortiz at DH. To a lesser extent, this is true of Tim Wakefield, too, but methinks that it's too soon to tell if both Dice-K and Clay Buchholz are healthy and effective.

...I'm liking the idea that defense has become the new on-base percentage. To the uninformed, "Moneyball" was all about that, despite Billy Beane's numerous reminders that it was about finding market inefficiencies — "the closer" is overvalued* for example. It's still amusing how many people still believe that there can only be one "closer," despite mountains of evidence that show historically (read: since 1901) a team with a lead in the 9th inning wins the game 95% of the time.
* My favorite take on this comes from the late Dick Radatz, who essentially said of his bullpen for the North Shore Spirit: Roles? Bullshit. Your job when you're on the mound is to throw strikes. Period. End of discussion.

Some of that "liking" of course comes from a brilliant insight from Joe Posnanski, who I believe is the best sportswriter in the business these days. The "Pozterisk" is his invention (the italics above) and I steal it in the spirit of plagiarism being the most sincere form of flattery. I couldn't find the link, but it's basically that people become fans of the players that are similar to themselves as a player. When I played baseball as a boy, I was a catcher. When I began playing softball in my mid-20s, I soon realized my strengths were hitting to the opposite field and utilizing my speed, which helps me get to more balls than most guys my age. Consequently, I have more of an affinity for catchers and defensive guys that can really run.

...MASN this year is actually going to show eight spring training games for the O's and Nats, all in HD, and none of the games are against each other. Of course, seven of those eight games involve the Red Sox and Yank-mes (the Braves are the outlier). Like most fans, I'll be happier when either MASN is broken up or the Nationals are given a dedicated channel, but it's still encouraging. Some people think that it's a function of their losing that keeps the ratings low, but making folks constantly have to guess which channel it's on cannot help.

...Otherwise, I'm in the best shape of my life


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