And now for the competitive portion of your Spring Training program …
Three things I really enjoy about Spring Training:
- It’s baseball, without consequences. You can sit back, enjoy the game, and for the only time of the year (devastating injuries not withstanding), not worry about the result.
- All statistics are skewed, but you get an intro to your team in ways no other sport offers. The NFL comes the closest, but the MLB’s model allows one to get a feel for the character of the team over multiple exposures during the course of the month.
- The games, for whatever they lack in competitive value, offer much more in terms of what the broadcasters give you than during the course of the regular season. You hear stories you’d never otherwise hear, interviews with subjects that won’t be touched during the rest of the year and – because, as a rule, only the home team offers a broadcast – you get exposed to different broadcasting pairs and trios around the league. Through that, you get a better feel for what others in the league are saying about your squad, and also what others in the league feel about the rest of the league.
That all being said, knuckleballer Steven Wright draws the unenviable task of making the first real pitches of the year for the club against a group of talented Boston College hitters just waiting to show that they should belong at the next level.
I like Wright. I think before the year is out, he winds up playing a key role in either the rotation as a stop-gap due to injuries, or to add depth to the bullpen.
People tend to forget he was really, really, good for his brief stint in 2014 (22 K in 21 innings pitched, 2.57 ERA, 1.19 WHIP). His first extended big league exposure in 2015 didn’t have the same shine, but he enters his age 31 season not facing the same potential decreasing velocity landmines that pitchers his age tangle with.
As with the rest of Red Sox Nation, I’ll be watching Hanley’s first base debut with keen interest. He’s said and done all the right things thus far in camp. Now we get to see how it looks in an actual game.
David Ortiz is also making a wise move in holding off his debut until Grapefruit League games begin. There would be no more depressing close to a career than if his final chapter were to end with an injury suffered in an exhibition against a college team …
Entering Preseason Predictions
I’ll hone these to a much finer degree over the next four weeks but as things stand right now, here is what I think about 2016.
The National League teams everyone will be talking about will be the Cubs and the Mets.
… but they should really be talking about the Giants, the Cardinals and the Braves.
The American League teams everyone will be talking about will be the Blue Jays and the Red Sox.
… but they should really be talking about the Royals, Tigers and Rays.
The team no one will see coming: The A’s.
The teams everyone thinks should be in it, but just won’t be: The Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.
The teams that no one thinks will be in it, and they’ll be right: The Reds, the Phillies & the Marlins.
If I have to pick a World Series winner without yet seeing one pitch in 2016, I’m going with the Cardinals.