Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring Training Melodrama

The reign of pitchers and catchers is ending for most teams, as players with designations 3 through 9 get a chance to work out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually translate well into actual baseball stories, which are limited to drama, gossip, and similar hodgepodge that generally has nothing to do with pitching, hitting, or fielding. From around the league:

Yankees: So far there have only been three variety of story surrounding the Bronx Bombers this spring: A-Rod/Jeter, Pavano, and Bernie. The latter two stories tend to actually feature this nebulous thing called “base-ball” and whether those players can actually participate in this activity. Those stories are of course ignored. Jeter and A-Rod! A-Rod and Jeter! Are they bff?!? Does Jeter share the toy cars with A-Rod or does he keep them all to himself? When A-Rod walks by in the locker room does Jeter push A-Rod's books to the floor and laugh? What? These men are 30 years old and not 10? Who cares, I have a deadline and have to fill 40 lines! Forget writing about whether the fourth spot in the rotation will be adequately filled with a man who hasn’t pitched in a meaningful game in 20 months. Forget writing about the waning career of the latest in a long line of tremendous Yankee centerfielders- all anyone wants to talk about is the friendships of two multi-millionaires. Give me a break.

Pirates: Just to clarify that the insanity above is not confined to the NY media- this story indicates that there has been some kind of problem between Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson and his double-play mate Jose Castillo. Wilson blasted the work ethic of Castillo in a TV interview last month, and now claims it was an attempt to inspire Castillo to improve upon his 18 errors and .253 batting average last season. But the two apparently have talked it out over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or something, and appear to be honky-dory. It is unclear whether the incident from last year-- where Wilson showed up wearing the same dress as Castillo, even though Wilson was there when Castillo said he was going to wear the red dress-- was a factor in the feud.

Braves: The headline story out of camp (based on it being the top story on is that Andruw Jones has recovered from his eating binge while in Japan: “we ate McDonalds before every game and KFC after every game. It was a routine.” According to teammate Tim Hudson, the Braves’ CF has dropped weight and showed up “slim… you can see his belly-button now.” Hudson did not elaborate on his weird navel fetish, but did add that the turning point was when Chipper Jones called Andruw “fat,” and the younger Jones was later found in the cafeteria, eating a salad, and crying to himself.

Marlins: It may be a bit premature for to anoint the arrival of a new manager as the “Gonzalez Era,” but things are looking up for the young fish. The previous manager, Joe Girardi, was canned despite his team exceeding expectations and the AP awarding him Manager of the Year Honors. A victim of poor morale with his players, who complained of being overworked, and of poor communication with owner/crybaby Jeff Loria, Girardi was replaced with Fredi Gonzalez. Among Mr. Gonzalez’s qualifications include: 1) speaks Spanish 2) is from Miami 3) worked under Bobby Cox for a couple years 4) speaks Spanish. Asked for an example of what a good manager does, Gonzalez said,
“[The pitching coach] may tell me, 'You may want to talk to so-and-so because
his grandfather is not doing well.' You, as a manager, you've got to find a time
in that day to come over and ask the guy, 'Is everything OK?'”
Apparently Gonzalez is going to get the young Marlins to the post-season by taking them out for real fruit smoothies after every game, and having slumber parties where everyone talks about their feelings. Interpersonal relationships are important (if you listen to the mainstream sports media), but at the end of the day, wins and losses matter. Who cares if your manager is a good listener- I want to know that he isn’t going to give up outs by sacrifice bunting down three runs in the fifth inning.

Astros: In the “David Eckstein Has Lots of Grit” headline category, the top story on Houston’s page is “Scott exudes strength, confidence.” That’s referring to the Astros’ likely new right fielder, Luke Scott, who apparently has grown some kind of new organ capable of excreting abstract nouns. It is refreshing to hear that there are some athletes who are the anti-Andruw Jones and fix their own meals in a healthy way. He also spent quite a bit of time in the gym, and took a lot of supplements. But they’re not on the arbitrary list of supplements that equal cheating, so it’s fine. The competition with Chris Burke and Richard Hidalgo will be tough, but Scott hopes that manager Phil Garner will pay more attention to confidence than to, say, slugging percentage.


Jeff said...

Also, Luke Scott carries a gun around, so there's that. However, it is not Burke who he is competing with, as Burke will be starting in center (replacing Taveras, who is now in Colorado). Our outfield is Lee, Burke, and whoever wins the job between Scott, Hidalgo, and Jason Lane. My money is on Scott, who absolutely shredded NL pitching for the last two or three months of '06.

Xenod said...

You can't say how good a job Girardi did, then hate on how he managed in the same paragraph.

Matt said...

I wasn't hating on Girardi's managing, I was hating on the crybaby attitude of the owner and players. To some extent I can understand the players' standpoint, because all of the players other than Cabrera and Willis had never played for a major league team before. And then here was Girardi, imposing strict curfews and appearance codes (no facial hair), trying to run a professional organization. You can't expect a team full of people our age to accept those kinds of demands, as if they were playing for the historic New York Yankees. Still, they are adults and they should act like adults.

Loria is an adult, and should act like one too. Sure, he's the owner and should get final say, but he was a tad ridiculous. I find this situation to be the opposite of the Jets' with Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini- Herm was the players' coach, listening to their demands and going light on them in practice. Players like Larry Johnson say they can "connect" to Herm because he's black. Mangini took the same team Edwards had and took it to the second round of the playoffs. Similarly, I think Gonzalez, whose biggest attributes seem to be going easy on the players and being able to relate to them as Hispanic. That might be a good way to run a marketing firm but athletes need to be challenged. I think the Marlins will regress and lose 100 games this year without Girardi. Is that strong enough a stance for you?