Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Do We Keep Score in Spring Training?

Spring Training is emotionally confusing. We get to see new acquisitions for teams in new uniforms. Fans of those teams get to see the great new hope in town. For example, Red Sox fans got their first look at Adrian Gonzalez today. Plus, we get to see the prospects. We get our first looks at Montero, Hosmer, Harper and others. We obsess over how these players do. Uh oh, Montero is batting .167. There is curiosity in how Jeter is going to hit and how Youkilis is going to look at third and if Bumgarner can keep rolling after his post season. We stress over the poor spring by John Johnson and Matt Latos. And we need the constant reminder that none of it means anything.

It's totally meaningless that Mayberry has four homers and that the Royals have won twice as many games as they've lost. Years ago, the Fan used to laugh when George Steinbrenner got so upset because the Yankees weren't winning Spring Training games. And no, it doesn't mean a cotton picking thing that the World Champions are 13-4 this spring. It doesn't mean the Giants continue to build on their World Series win. All it means is that their late inning replacements are doing better than another team's late inning replacements. Starters are only pitching four innings (or five at the most). Position starters rarely play together and only play for two at bats or so. The games are meaningless. The stats are meaningless and the standings are meaningless.

The big reason we all get caught up in this stuff is easy to determine. First, we are so desperate for baseball that we'll take anything, even if they are meaningless games and make them into more than they should be. Secondly, we are all fooled because for some reason, the games scores and the statistics are all kept religiously. Why? Will any of us care a year from now what Larvarnway batted for the Red Sox before he was sent to the minors? Nope. Will any of us care that the Mariners were 8-5 as of March 13, 2011? No. And yet, we are given the mirage that the games count. There are box scores and winners and losers and saves and holds for crying out loud. We're paying attention to holds in spring training? It matters that Noesi got a blown save?

This Fan thinks we should stop this foolishness. Stop keeping score! The players should go out, play their nine innings and go home. and and Yahoo and CBSSports and FoxSports and all the others need not put box scores in their sites. The Fan understands that teams need to evaluate prospects. And the Fan also understands that interested baseball fans want to know how they are doing. So this idea will never fly. How about a compromise? Go ahead and publish the box scores and keep the stats. People want to know and you can't stop that. But forget about the standings. How's that?

There is also something else that gets us completely fooled. Say the Yankees are playing and they start Bartolo Colon. Colon pitches three innings and gives up a run on four hits. He is replaced by everyone's favorite Yankee pitching prospect, Banuelos. Banuelos pitches two perfect innings and blows away four batters. Okay, so judging by that, Colon should be released and Banuelos should be the Yankees' fifth starter. Right? Don't we think that?

But those performances weren't apples to apples. They were apples to grapefruit. Colon faced the other team's regulars who then depart after an at bat or two. Banuelos faced the other team's equivalent to Melky Mesa. You can't compare the two performances. You can't. The job of each team is to judge how each pitcher is throwing. Do they hit their spots? Do they repeat their motions? What's the radar gun saying? All that has to be taken into account and the teams then have to keep the best 12 or 13 pitchers to take north. If the teams went by spring training stats, they might think that Bonifacio was a .320 hitter. Oh wait. The Marlins do think that. Sorry.

The Fan knows full well that nothing is going to change. Reporting baseball and the MLB selling baseball is just too big now. Too many people are trying to figure out who to add to their fantasy rosters. So the MLB will continue to keep score, keep stats and perpetuate the myth that it means something. The least this Fan could ever hope for is a disclaimer in bold letters at the bottom of the standings, the team stats and the box scores that believing in any of the data can be hazardous to your emotional health. And in big block, capitalized letters: "NONE OF THIS MATTERS.".

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