The Cutoff Man: Almost the real thing
Spring training games began this past weekend, giving fans a teaser of events come April.
Some games were even broadcast by teams’ local stations, making them feel even more real.
As a Mets fan, it was nice to hear Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling — the best broadcast team in baseball (as agreed upon by ESPN.com) — getting back to narrating games again.
As a baseball fan in general, of course, it was just nice to see nine uniformed players on a diamond and a guy in a different uniform at the plate.
Spring training games are a time for recently injured stars to prove they’ve still got it, for backups to shine, and for Oliver Perez to show he’s not a complete waste of the $12 million remaining on his contract.
Chipper Jones, who had initially planned on retiring at the end of 2010 before a season-ending injury, will use spring training as a gauge of how ready he is for one more go-round.
Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and pretty much the rest of the Mets’ roster will use spring training to prove that they are healthy and rid of their many ailments.
Justin Morneau, who missed most of the Twins’ surge to the playoffs at the end of last season with a concussion, is no doubt eager to show that he’s finally fully recovered and free of any post-concussion symptoms.
Unfortunately, though, proving that you are healthy during the spring doesn’t do anything to prove that you can stay healthy throughout the regular season.
Spring training games are also a time for teams to showcase their rising stars.
For a top prospect like the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, it’s a chance to reward his team’s faith and give them confidence in their decision to make him an everyday Major Leaguer.
For other top prospects, like the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, it’s a chance to beat their teams’ expectations and force their way onto the Opening Day roster.
For the fans, it’s a chance to see all that develop right before their eyes.
That said, much of the excitement of spring training games stems solely from the fact that they are indeed baseball games — Major League games being played between Major League teams by Major League (and Minor League) players.
For the true baseball fans, spring training games are like the Star Wars prequels.
They are, for the most part, entertaining, they showcase what happens before the things we really care about happen, and they are hyped up to be far more awesome and important than they end up being.
Sorry, journalists, no spring training game will ever have a playoff atmosphere, even if it’s Red Sox-Yankees after the 2004 playoffs.
Unfortunately, though, reports indicate that upon finding out that he’d lost Adam Wainwright to surgery, Tony La Russa did not continue the prequel analogy by screaming, “Noooo!”
As a Mets fan, I’ll be watching these spring spectacles, scouring for positives and excitement and eagerly awaiting Opening Day.
When I can begin watching A New Hope, The Mets Strike Back, and Return of the Collapse. Oops, I mean, Playoffs.