By Daniel I. Dorfman–
One of my favorite months growing up was March. The worst of winter was over, the college basketball tournament was starting and most of all, spring training was here.
While I knew the spring games didn’t matter, just hearing the first sounds of baseball in months was marvelous. I would devour the stories from the camps and while I never made it there, I thought going to either Florida or Arizona would be like a combination of going to DisneyWorld and Maui.
Such excitement would lead to expectations that weren’t realistic but fun to think about, similar to when a lottery ticket is bought. The hopes can be silly as I remember thinking the Hawk Harrelson White Sox experiment of 1986 might work out and we all know what happened there.
It seems like such a distant time in my life as now my prevailing thought on spring training can be summed up in three letters: Ehh.
The other day I was watching the Sox-Cubs game and half the time I was hoping I wasn’t missing one of my favorite Everybody Loves Raymond episodes.
Perhaps it is a matter of age and cynicism, which happens when you have seen one too many John Cangelosis or Gary Scotts or any other spring training phenom that did nothing once the real games start. But it has also become a tiring routine as the truth staring at any ballclub tends gets hidden in the sunshine and warm temperatures.
There are some really good examples close to home.
For a Sox fan, no matter what happens in Glendale over these few weeks, whomever emerges as the winner of the Brent Morel/Mark Teahan battle there will be calls for a switch to the other guy if either one struggles out of the gate. There is great curiosity if Jake Peavy can make an amazing comeback from a rare injury (and I’ll believe it when I see it) in time for Opening Day, but who won’t wonder if he will be on the disabled list by Memorial Day? A
For the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano says he is cured. OK, let’s see what happens on a hot summer night and something happens that aggravates him. Will the old Carlos be back? Or whoever emerges as the leadoff man, will they still be in that role 60 games into the season. No way that can be determined in Mesa.
Also, I have a hard time getting into the six weeks of spring training that is twice as long as it needs to be. It is not exactly the type of secret Wikileaks is going to expose anytime soon when it is said spring training only goes as long as it does because the teams and the Florida and Arizona businessmen use it is a cash cow. Part of the NFL lockout is traced to the four pre-season games, but do we really need 30 Cactus League games?
It would be interesting to hear what the players would say about the exercise if they were assured privacy. Just listen to what Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said. “I’m not putting down spring training but it doesn’t truly mean anything,” Palmer noted. “It is like an appetizer but the main course is the season.”
This is not a knock on baseball in general or that I have developed jadedness about the game. On Opening Day I will be as intrigued as anyone and will be making full use of my remote in April as I flip between early season games and Bulls and (hopefully) Blackhawks playoff action.
But later this week I’ll be back at the gym in my never ending quest to knock off a few more pounds and I’m sure I will find a broadcast from Arizona. My sense is once again I will turn it on, catch a few innings and get really tempted to check in on Ray Romano.
Do you agree with Daniel? Post your comments below.
Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.