Spring Training is Awesome (and so are my Mini-Reviews)

Spring training is awesome.

It’s the one time of the year where you can sit back, watch a game, and not have to worry about the politics of baseball or how crappy your team is doing. We have had two full days of spring training games and I have been able to watch a few, thanks to MLB TV. Seriously, best investment ever. No joke. And no, they are NOT paying me to say that.

Anyway, I got to see seven teams play so far and because I am an over-achiever and part-time mind reader, I am going to talk about what I saw from the teams and what kind of indicators I got that will play out in the regular season. So, don’t take too much stock in this, but as a blogger, I am now obliged to give my opinion without a care because that’s how the Internet works.

All right, let’s get crackin’:

Philadelphia Phillies: Okay, so I only saw part of this game, but I think the Phillies might actually do better this year. I am hopeful, but c’mon, they have to deal with the Nationals and the Braves. I think a third-place finish is a totally acceptable goal.

Toronto Blue Jays: Color me impressed. The Jays actually didn’t suck in the partial game I saw. Jose Bautista spanked a homerun like he was a pimp and that ball was his…erm…I’ll just stop there before I get in trouble. Okay, anyway, after last year, the Jays can only go up, right? Well, I liked what I saw in the few innings I watched. Because as we all know, a few innings is totally a good way to gauge the rest of the season (enter sarcastic tone).

Pittsburg Pirates: After watching them whoop up on my Yankees, I can say that the Pirates will be good this year. Good enough for play-off run? I dunno. They will have to contest with that Cardinals and that shall be no easy task. It would be fun to see them do well this year, but we gotta stay realistic: I don’t know that they are any better than the teams they could potentially face in the post-season.

New York Yankees: Well. They actually didn’t play that terribly these past two games against the Pirates, but they most definitely did not play up to half their potential. Seriously. It was as though none of their core players were playing (which is totally the point of spring training games) and I think that really bummed out the offense. I think we will need to watch a few more games before judgments are made. They can be a super great team, so long as the lingering question marks go away. Yes, the bias is oozing out of me, don’t hate.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Beating up on the Dodgers is a wonderful feeling, but losing to them the next day is a bummer. Arizona got Kershaw’s number on Tuesday and didn’t let up, but in the split-squad game, the latter part of the game slipped away from those Diamondbacks. That trend really hurt them last year. Of course, they did the exact opposite against the Cubs this afternoon. A slow start led to a poppin’ finish. So, yeah. This year the D-Backs should finish above .500, but I don’t know how well they will do in the post-season, if they make it that far. Prado’s bat was explosive and Goldschmidt pulled through in the clutch, just like always. I really REALLY want them to pull off something special.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Obviously the biggest thing about the Dodger’s spring training is Zack Greinke. First, he spouts how unexcited he is for the Australia trip, and now, he might not even have to go. This afternoon against Arizona, he felt something pinch in his leg and was taken out preventatively after 4 or so pitches. So will the Greink-ster have to go to the land down under? If he has his way, probably not. Milk it, buddy! The Dodgers looked hot and cold these past two games, so I am projecting they will still be great this year, but maybe not quite as good. Like, they will be in the post-season, but probably not the World Series. But the best part of these games was listening to Vin Scully call the game. The dude is funny in an I-don’t-mean-to-be-funny-I-am-just-old kind of way.

Chicago Cubs: Oh, Cubbies. You get a brand new park and a home run to christen it. Except the homer wasn’t yours. It belonged to the Diamondbacks. You guys set the record for Cactus League attendance and had so many fans cheering for you to win! And you lost. I hate to say it, but dudes, you’re not making into the post-season. This whole spring training game pretty much sums up your life: it started strong and everyone was filled with hope, and then it all fell apart. But we still love you. We have to, if only because we feel sorta bad for you.

So there you have it, folks! My mini-analysis of these wonderful (and evil…Dodgers) teams is complete. I will try to have more mini reviews as I watch these games.

Sit back and enjoy spring training, because it is awesome. We get to see players we normally wouldn’t and we get a taste of baseball before the games actually matter. Enjoy spring training because the season will be here before we know it and I will become consumed with baseball. But now, I have to do homework because I have time. In a few weeks, I will not have time because I will be watching baseball. Sorry Mom and Dad for the inevitable tanking of my grades.

Priorities.

Oh, Captain My Captain

What is there to be said about Derek Jeter that has not already been said?

Mr. November. Shortstop. Yankee. Ambassador of baseball. Class Act. Champion. Humanitarian. Human being. All-around good guy. All of these could accurately describe the long-time Yankee Capitan, and they have been used to describe him since he started playing the game. But how do I go about describing Derek Jeter? Well, it’s complicated.

My first real memory of Derek Jeter came out of a fuming hatred of the Yankees. I was nine and knew nothing about the team was set to play my beloved Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. The only thing I knew was that they were an evil team, information given to me by my family and family friends. Rodger Clemons was amazing, but not a good guy. Andy Pettitte just looked scary to me. Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera seemed likable, but you hated them for the uniform they wore. And worst of all, they said, was Derek Jeter, or Derek Cheater as my friends called him. Hatred, pure and deep, ran through my house for this team.

And yet.

Here I am, thirteen years later, singing his praises.

What changed? A lot, really. As I began to grow up and form my own opinions about the New York Yankees, I realized that they were not a league of evil villains. They were not this terrible conglomerate of players who sought to make everyone’s lives miserable. I began to see them as good guys, good players, and a storied franchise. I have an Andy Pettitte t-shirt now, the same pitcher who used to scare me when I saw close ups of him on the mound. And, Derek Jeter has been my favorite player for the Yankees for years now. It all changed because I could appreciate everything he did, without being blinded by other people’s hatred.

Watching Jeter play was a blessing and I regret that I could not have watched him more. His signature flip to first base, his staggering number of hits, all of it was astounding. He never asked for the attention to be put on him and he put the team first, one of the reasons why he was always in the spotlight. And not only was he in the spotlight, people didn’t mind him being there. People liked him. He was a superhero in the steroid era, never once getting a whiff of suspicion blown in his direction. He never said anything bad about anyone. It’s amazing, really.

Jeter also believed in giving back to his community, something that may not make him unique, but it puts another level of respect on the man. Again, it was never about him. He wanted to help others. He wanted to help his teammates. He was a selfless player that has my upmost respect.

No lie, I may or may not have cried a little when I watched him break his ankle in the 2012 post-season. This man had become a human being once again in that moment and it was heartbreaking. I was watching with my family, so I couldn’t show how upset I was. I had secretly been rooting for New York. I also may have cried when I saw he was not going to play much in 2013, and definitely cried watching him and Andy pull Mariano Rivera out of his last game. The Core Four era will be officially over after this year, and that makes me want to cry.

I’m so sad I will probably never get to see Jeter play in person. So this year, as I have for many years, I will have to admire his talent from afar. I hope he can play more than 17 games this year and I hope he can be at least half the player he used to be. Regardless, he is slated to go out on top. If you thought Rivera’s farewell tour was big, just you wait. I project Jeter will be honored in every city and every stop along the way, but it will all be deserved. He is a man who deserves whatever good vibes people throw his way.

I hope that this season, people will really give Derek Jeter a good look. I hope that they will treat him with the respect he deserves. I hope he goes out on top. And more than anything, I hope that he will find happiness after the season is over. God, I hate getting this sappy; it kinda skeeves me out, but I guess great players just bring out my sappy side. So thank you Derek Jeter for bringing out my sappy side. I am sorry I discounted you early in my life and I am sorry it took me so long to come to my senses.

So, yeah, I’m gonna cry watching you play this year, but I’m not mad about it. I’m happy for you Derek. Really. Go out and do your thing. Me and the rest us baseball fans will be rooting for you.

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RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/major-league-baseball-execs-open-to-signing-gay-player-021014

With football prospect Michael Sam coming out of the closet, the NFL is poised to sign its first openly gay player. I, for one, couldn’t be happier. If the guy is good, it shouldn’t matter who he goes home to after the game. Is the NFL ready? I hope so. Is MLB ready? I hope so. I think this article gives me hope that a person’s sexuality should not matter when it comes to getting drafted. If he can hit a baseball or pitch like a fiend, it should never matter. 

Winning and Losing Starts Before the Season Does

With the off-season coming to a close and spring training starting this week (YAHOO!!!!!), it is that time when everyone is really analyzing the off-season moves made by all of the teams. I decided to look into who made the best moves and the worst moves. Here is a list of the teams who I think won the off-season and the teams who didn’t make much of a splash:

Winners:

New York Yankees: Dumping almost half a billion dollars during the off-season is a great place to start for a team who has money and really needed to make changes. They needed offense, so that’s what they got (okay, bought). They needed pitching, so that’s what they got. I think they made a lot of smart moves and put some much needed power in their lineup. I mean, spending that much money should be a good thing…right? Please?

Boston Red Sox: I’m including them because they covered their butts by getting AJ Pierzynski to catch for them once Saltalamacchia left. Clearly, the Sox have a pension for catchers with long last names. They just won the World Series and look poised for another post-season run. Besides, they have Mike Napoli’s beard to remind them of their success, and as a warning to never grow those nasty things ever again.

Tampa Bay Rays: They did not get rid of David Price. Forget all the good moves they made and extensions they signed. They are winners this off-season because they kept Price.

Texas Rangers: They picked up Prince Fielder (granted, he was not his best in 2013) and Shin-Soo Choo, so they are already looking better. With some post-season trips and near misses, they are poised to use that momentum to propel themselves forward. It would be fun to see them do that.

Honorable Mentions:

– Seattle Mariners: Giving Robinson Cano an arm, leg, and their soul was an interesting way to start the off-season, but hey, I guess they mean business.

– Kansas City Royals: Will they be Royal this year? Can I call them Queen Bee (get the Lorde reference? I think I tried too hard, but can you blame me??)? I sure hope so. 2013 was such a turn-a-round year for this club, it would be fun to see them really let loose.

– Los Angeles Dodgers: They didn’t really lose any key players and gave Clayton Kershaw a massive, yet deserving, extension. Now how funny would it be if they bombed like they did the first half of last year?

– Arizona Diamondbacks: Getting Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed was huge, but they had to surrender some prospects to get there. Hopefully, this will work out in their favor because I really want to see these Trumbombs everyone keeps talking about.

– Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. That’s all.

– Washington Nationals: A new manager (Matt Williams) and a new pitcher (Doug Fister) poise the Nats to give Atlanta a run for their money.

Losers:

Baltimore Orioles: In a division as hard as the AL East, you’d think Baltimore would have made some more moves. I was optimistic when they picked up Grant Balfour, mostly because I think he is awesome, but to see them drop him like a hot, Aussie potato was surprising. And they didn’t need that, either. Without any moves made, I can’t see how they can be contenders for 2014.

Toronto Blue Jays: Again, the AL East is a nasty place to be. Last off-season, Toronto made some rocking moves, but it never happened for them last year. I want to be optimistic, but I really doubt they will make magic. Really, the only cool thing about the Jays are the knuckle balls that will supposedly come out during Spring Training.

Cincinnati Reds: They lost Shoo, Dusty Baker, and will probably lose Bronson Arroyo. Bum deal, huh?

Pittsburg Pirates: I include them because they didn’t really do much this year. They lost some good players and might lose AJ Burnett, but they have a great farm system. Will it be enough to propel them into the post-season? Eh…it’s a little up in the air.

All remaining free agents: Geez, it must really suck to be a free agent and not be signed by now! I thought that once Masahiro Tanaka signed, the other pitchers would be prime real estate. As it turns out, no one wants to surrender a first-round pick for these guys and I don’t really blame them. It’s kinda of messed up that a solid pitcher is punished because a team won’t give up a draft pick, but that’s how it works.

Not-so-Honorable Mentions:

– Atlanta Braves: Yes, they are in both categories because while they gave extensions to the players who needed it, they lost good players. They better hope BJ Upton gets hot again and Dan Uggla can bounce back.

– Houston Astros: LOL.

– Miami Marlins: see Houston Astros.