View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Thursday

1

March 2012

36

COMMENTS

Spring Training Doesn't Matter – Except When It Does

Written by , Posted in General

Spring Training is upon us. Sunday the Cubs meet the Athletics in Mesa. I don’t have to remind most of you how completely different the Cubs look this year. No Zambrano, no Ramirez, no Pena, no Marshall, no Quade, no Hendry. Welcome Dale, Theo and all those spare parts you’ve brought in with you. The current roster isn’t even a close relative of the one that Hendry left behind in August, and actually you could argue the 25-man roster is significantly worse. That’s why Spring Training matters this year…

Except it doesn’t. Spring Training never matters. Go look at the 2011 Spring Training standings, it’s littered with anomalies. The Royals won 20 in a month; the D-Backs posted worst AZ record and went on to win their division (while playing half their games in AZ). It’s the same story every year and we all understand why – expanded rosters, more playing time for guys who are probably less deserving of a regular roster spot, split squad games, starters who pitch two innings, “regulars” who don’t regularly play until late-March – the game is completely different which is why you can’t really glean anything from it…

Except when you can. Spring Training matters when your torrid hitting forces the team to take you with them when they break camp. In 2001, the Cardinals had what they thought was a 3B for their AA team, except future HOFer Albert Pujols never stopped hitting. His offensive output in March forced the Cardinals into giving him a roster spot that he held for 10 years. I’m looking at you Anthony Rizzo – the 22-year-old with high expectations has been a piece of flair that Jed Hoyer has worn at each of his last three jobs. Only Bryan LaHair separates the promising Rizzo from an everyday job; Spring Training is the perfect opportunity for Rizzo to put on the show we’re all told he’s capable of…and if he does, it’ll definitely matter…

Unless it doesn’t. Some guys look great in Spring Training, sometimes that can even carry over into April. Kosuke Fukudome was a .345 hitter in April. In fact, Kosuke’s April numbers would have him headed towards the HOF. At the opposite end of that spectrum sit two other former Cubs, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Both had multiple seasons that started very slow (watch Aramis go on a tear in Milwaukee early this year – you know he will!). But a good or bad Spring Training didn’t lend any clues as to how long or short that slow start might be for either player. It’s especially true with pitchers, who for one reason or another might pitch differently in Spring Training than they would in the regular season. And so it goes with a host of players…Spring Training doesn’t matter…

But this year it REALLY does. New coach, new players, guys fighting for positions and trying to make a good impression on their new overseers. The front office trying to exhibit a changed organizational attitude for the Ricketts family. If Dale doesn’t have a handle on things, or Theo looks a little too comfortable on the laurels of his previous success this thing could go south quick. And surely we’ll start to see some of that in Spring Training because these games matter, (one last time).

Only they never REALLY matter. Spring Training games can end in a tie for crying out loud. A TIE!! How much can it “matter” if you send the teams off in one of those obnoxious soccer-esque anticlimactic sister-kissers? Ties suck and so does Spring Training.

So maybe we’ll see a hint of “little things” like attitude or effort or even reduced playing time for a certain LF that will give us hope of a changing wind. But we’re not likely to see much on the field in the next month that will enable any definitive answers to the myriad of questions that confront the Cubs. Except this – I always want the Cubs to win, pre-season, regular season, home run derby, annual awards, prime seats at the ESPYs, silent auctions, a raffle at a pancake breakfast – it doesn’t matter if it “counts” or not, I want the Cubs to win. So even if it’s only a little bit, it matters to me.

  • AC0000000

    No Zambrano, no Ramirez, no Pena, no Marshall, no Quade, no Hendry!?
    What else happened when I spent the last year on Mars?

  • BLPCB

    The Cubs winning is nice and all, but I want them to win the final game played at the end of the year. That would matter, and allow me to die in peace.

    • cap’n obvious

      the things I will be looking at in this year’s spring training, and into the Cub season have more to do with process than results.   I’m really trying to put wins and losses out of my head, and try hard to find some positives with the changes.  I’d still like to see a better hitting and pitching coach…but at least Hendry and Quade are gone, so there’s hope for the right direction.

      • Gymjok

        And if Aramis has that early good start- we’ll being reading it’s because of some kind of Cubs curse. It couldn’t be for some logical reason like he’ll be playing his home games indoors now instead of in bad weather. 

      • Jeremiah Johnson

        If anyone comes back to bite us I think it’ll be Marshall or Zambrano, not Ramirez.  

      • Jedi

        I tend to agree, Ramirez walked away for a bigger deal that wouldn’t have made any sense for the Cubs.  Marshall and Zambrano were traded for less proven commodities.  Maybe to an ESPN talking head one of those deals will look bad, but ultimately the Cubs weren’t going to commit to Marshall for the next four years like the Reds just did.  And anyone who has followed Zambrano’s career knows that no matter what he does in Miami, you can’t assume his output would’ve been remotely close to the same (good or bad) in Chicago.  I just don’t think we’ll be here in a year wishing any of those guys were on our 2013 roster – that being the case it’s good we got something, anything for them.

      • BLPCB

        Plus you need to factor in Bozo playing for Ozzie, who considers him his 4th son. Because they have such a good friendship, I wonder if Ozzie will be able to control Bozo, or if he will be enabled like he was here. The Marshall trade, I like it, the money can be better spent. Just because we’re a big budget team, and Marshall can still be a good part when we’re winning again, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t save a buck or 2 when we can. As for Ramirez, he is in decline. He was our best 3B since Santo, but now he is lazy. Always hurt, and gets off to a lousy start. He’s lucky Braun’s suspension got overturned, otherwise he’s the only big stick in that lineup and everyone would see him suck without Bruan

      • BLPCB

        Only hitting when Braun comes back and the Brewers are 20 games out of it. Just like in 06 when Lee broke his wrist.

      • Doug S.

        Finally!!!!
        Baseball on TV this weekend, some nice relief from the all the hockey we get around here.

      • Buddy

        You should join that hot dog eating contest that ESPN shows every year. If you do, wear a VFTB t-shirt and hat. 

      • BLPCB

        1. I a never partaking in an eating contest ever again
        2. I don’t have a VFTB hat and shirt. Never knew one existed.

      • Buddy

         Maybe Joe can hook you up, if you decide to join the contest of course.

      • BLPCB

        3. I don’t eat hot dogs

  • AC0000000

    The Cubs winning is nice and all, but I want them to win the final game played at the end of the year. That would matter, and allow me to die in peace.

  • cap’n obvious

    the things I will be looking at in this year’s spring training, and into the Cub season have more to do with process than results.   I’m really trying to put wins and losses out of my head, and try hard to find some positives with the changes.  I’d still like to see a better hitting and pitching coach…but at least Hendry and Quade are gone, so there’s hope for the right direction.

  • Seymour Butts

    You know what? Come Monday I can sit here at my desk and listen to Cub baseball!!!!
    The second most fun you can have in front of a computer!

    • That may cut into your butt seeing.  

    • BLPCB

      After this site, with porn a close 3rd, right?

    • AC0000000

      After this site, with porn a close 3rd, right?

  • Gymjok

    And if Aramis has that early good start- we’ll being reading it’s because of some kind of Cubs curse. It couldn’t be for some logical reason like he’ll be playing his home games indoors now instead of in bad weather. 

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      If anyone comes back to bite us I think it’ll be Marshall or Zambrano, not Ramirez.  

      • Jedi

        I tend to agree, Ramirez walked away for a bigger deal that wouldn’t have made any sense for the Cubs.  Marshall and Zambrano were traded for less proven commodities.  Maybe to an ESPN talking head one of those deals will look bad, but ultimately the Cubs weren’t going to commit to Marshall for the next four years like the Reds just did.  And anyone who has followed Zambrano’s career knows that no matter what he does in Miami, you can’t assume his output would’ve been remotely close to the same (good or bad) in Chicago.  I just don’t think we’ll be here in a year wishing any of those guys were on our 2013 roster – that being the case it’s good we got something, anything for them.

      • AC0000000

        Plus you need to factor in Bozo playing for Ozzie, who considers him his 4th son. Because they have such a good friendship, I wonder if Ozzie will be able to control Bozo, or if he will be enabled like he was here. The Marshall trade, I like it, the money can be better spent. Just because we’re a big budget team, and Marshall can still be a good part when we’re winning again, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t save a buck or 2 when we can. As for Ramirez, he is in decline. He was our best 3B since Santo, but now he is lazy. Always hurt, and gets off to a lousy start. He’s lucky Braun’s suspension got overturned, otherwise he’s the only big stick in that lineup and everyone would see him suck without Bruan

      • AC0000000

        Only hitting when Braun comes back and the Brewers are 20 games out of it. Just like in 06 when Lee broke his wrist.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I like Spring Training, even if it is mostly meaningless. Maybe it’s the optimism of a new season, the surprising prospect or two who look ready for a promotion, or watching the roster take shape.

    Or maybe it’s just that I really hate basketball and I want something else to pay attention to for the next month.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I like Spring Training, even if it is mostly meaningless. Maybe it’s the optimism of a new season, the surprising prospect or two who look ready for a promotion, or watching the roster take shape.

    Or maybe it’s just that I really hate basketball and I want something else to pay attention to for the next month.

  • Doug S.

    Finally!!!!
    Baseball on TV this weekend, some nice relief from the all the hockey we get around here.

  • Buddy

    Spring Training is a blast to watch, especially live. However, it’s about as useful for evaluating the upcoming season as an empty beer can. 

  • Buddy

    Spring Training is a blast to watch, especially live. However, it’s about as useful for evaluating the upcoming season as an empty beer can. 

  • AC0000000

    Off-topic, but I just completed the 32 oz steak challenge like I had said I planned to. Had the steak medium-rare also. Never going to do such a challenge again, and there is no way I am going to go for the 72 oz challenge at that place in Texas. I just barely completed it. Medium-rare wasn’t cooked enough for me. Next time I’m going to go for steak a little in between medium and medium-rare. That should be the perfect level of cooking for me.

  • Buddy

    You should join that hot dog eating contest that ESPN shows every year. If you do, wear a VFTB t-shirt and hat. 

    • AC0000000

      1. I a never partaking in an eating contest ever again
      2. I don’t have a VFTB hat and shirt. Never knew one existed.

  • Buddy

     Maybe Joe can hook you up, if you decide to join the contest of course.

    • AC0000000

      3. I don’t eat hot dogs