Spring Training, everybody knows what that means, without saying anything else. In other sports they all have camps. If you say summer camp, this could be something your kid is doing, not the start of the NFL season. When you say Spring Training, you know baseball has started, thank God. This year, Spring Training is taking on a different feel for more than one reason. You have teams apologizing, managers and general managers just acquiring jobs, and this weird feeling that the season is already over. I will explain that later. Spring Training, just has a nice ring to it. Spring is coming, wonderful. The players are training, because that is what baseball requires. It is the most difficult game to play, but that will be for a future blog. The game is swimming in money, and there is just something about baseball, that makes you feel good. But let us look at what is making this Spring Training, very unique.
First there is the “apologetic” Houston Astros. The Astros would have been better off, just letting the media talk to individual players, rather than have Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, make those pathetic statements of apology. Then to top it off, their owner, Jim Crane, said that he did not feel the Astros sign stealing methods, affected the outcomes of games. If that doesn’t prove that money is not synonymous with brains, then nothing does. It also supports the theory that one of the biggest factors in being successful, and making a lot of money is luck. Just think about what he said for one moment. He said, that knowing what pitch is going to be thrown, is not really that much of an advantage. REALLY REALLY. Why not lobby to make what the Astros did, to be within the rules. Why did you fire your manager and your general manager. I have never seen an organization make things worse for themselves, on a daily basis. Because of the illegal sign stealing scandal we had three teams scrambling for managers and a general manager to run their teams. We will see how this affects the Astros, Red Sox, and Mets. If the Astros win the division, I will be shocked. I also look for the Mets and Red Sox to perform below expectations. The other thing that makes this Spring Training unique, is that you have the feeling, that you could go to sleep, wake up around October 20th, and be certain that the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, will be playing in the World Series. MLB Network likes to talk about the super teams in baseball, and will name 2 to 3 teams, in each league, that they feel fall into that category. This year, the Dodgers and Yankees have separated themselves from the rest of baseball so much, that both of their years could be historic. The Yankees could break the all time record for wins in a season. I think 120 wins would not be unrealistic, considering some of the bad teams, that are going to be in the American League, again this year. The Dodgers could do this too, but face stronger competition, in a more balanced National League. Yes, I know the games have to played on the field, and injuries could affect any team severely, but if nothing unusual happens, I don’t see anything stopping these two teams from dominating the entire season.
Then there is my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, who enter spring training with a whole new regime of coaches and a team that is basically unchanged. In my view, a team that has done so little during the off season, is harder to evaluate, than a team that has made a lot of moves. I will not do a final analysis, until just before the season starts, but you still have to wonder, what are they doing? I was not for a complete tear down and rebuild. I thought this team needed a third baseman, right fielder, and one or two starting pitchers, and they would be able to contend for the division title. This is not a long list. They did none of this. In fact, they lost their center fielder and really have not found a replacement, that approaches his value. The few additions they have made, were large defensive upgrades, at their positions. That makes sense. The Pirates were one of the worst fielding teams in baseball, no matter what defensive metrics are used. There are moves that still can be made. Even if the Pirates stay exactly as they are now, I do think that they are going to be better than most projections. The one on USA Today had them losing 102 games. I still have to take a wait see attitude on the new regime. So far, they have not done a lot to impress anyone, but the season has not even started. Like I wrote, spring training has begun, and it still gives me that nice warm and fuzzy feeling, even though it is only 20 degress outside here in the Burgh.