They say spring training can’t teach you anything. I watched nine whole innings of spring training baseball last Saturday to try to disprove that and I thought I’d share my findings with you.
Like on any good date, we’ll start by complaining about the weather. Oh, it’s hot. Hot, I tell ya! Hot like with heat and hotness and everything. Oh, that’s what they’ll say but those of us living under a blanket of snow know the truth. The pristine waters, the delicate sandy beaches melting under your delighted toes, the warm salty-kissed air… it’s enough to make you quit your job and move out of this blizzard-infested town! If you get on that right now you’ll make it down there just in time for hurricane season. That’s where all your worldly possessions are picked up, broken, and deposited on your neighbors’ lawn. You’ll make it back north just in time for another blizzard. Life.
Think about spring training and you think about laid-back baseball. Or at least I do. It’s a time for learning and learning always entails mistakes. And nobody is better at mistakes than Travis Snider. At least that’s true in this game, though I suspect his penchant for blunders goes a tad deeper. Snider, who it should come as no surprise has posted a negative FRAA in four of his five big league seasons, had a rough day in the field.
Here he is fielding a line drive single by David Ross that bounced in front of him.
And by “fielding” I mean over-running the ball…
…letting it bounce off the heal of his glove…
…and then showing us his number as he chases it back to the wall. Oops! If anyone asks you why spring training takes so long you can tell them it takes a good two months because that’s how long it takes Travis Snider to recall the proper way to field a single.
Later in the game Snider had a pop-up hit to him. Here it is, courtesy of Ben Lindbergh, in GIF form.
Favorite parts of that GIF:
- Ben: Snider’s little hop to catch the ball
- Me: The second where he realizes he's over-run the ball and throws his arms up in the air as if to say "not again!"
The announcers kindly pointed out through giggles that baseball is a results-based business and, in Snider’s defense, he did catch it.
3. Player Interviews
Spring training is about getting it right in preparation for the upcoming regular season. Getting it right means practice, and practice sometimes means getting it wrong. It’s all part of learning. Trying and trying again until you get it right. This works for all things. Like how to deal with a reporter asking you questions. The proper way, as we all know, is to spout as many clichés as possible. Shoehorn them into every part of speech. The more the better. Clichés are the player’s best friend.
Jamie Erdahl asked Buchholz two questions after he threw six innings against the Pirates. In this particular interview, Buchholz was a bit rusty. He started out well enough, but by the second question he’d lost his stuff. In answering the first question, Buchholz ably inserted three clichés. According to Buchholz, “it’s a grind,” but he’s “having fun with it” and “that’s what it’s all about.” Good start. But the second answer contained no clichés at all! He talked genuinely about how he likes having new manager John Farrell with a somewhat subtle nod to the differences between Farrell and his predecessor Bobby “The Ben Franklin of the Wrap” Valentine. It was honest and sincere. Oh well. It’s still spring.
It’s not just players who are rounding into form. Television announcers are working out the kinks as well. I took some notes on the announcing in this game. Here they are in bullet form.
- With Shane Victorino batting and Jacoby Ellsbury on first, Red Sox color commentator Jerry Remy says Victorino should try to hit the ball to the right side of the infield to move Ellsbury to third because it’s good fundamental baseball. On the next pitch Victorino hits the ball to the left side. In your face, fundamentals!
- Remy says Red Sox manager John Farrell has endorsed avoiding injury in spring training. Good to hear management is on board with players avoiding injury.
- During the broadcast the announcers took questions over Twitter. The first one was, “How important is having a utility player?” Color commentators verdict: important!
- The Pirates announcer Greg Brown enters the broadcast by referring to Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz as “Clay Buckholes.” This annoys and amuses me in equal parts. On one hand he should pronounce the players names correctly but on the other “Buckholes” is pretty funny. So funny in fact that I will now refer to Buchholz as Buckholes for the remainder of this article.
- Interview with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, translated questions:
1. Say nice things about the Red Sox.
2. Kiss John Farrell’s butt for 20 seconds.
3. Say nice things about the team.
4. Shifting players is weird. Explain.
[Garret Jones clubs a homer. 1-0 Pirates]
5. You’ve been a manager before. Talk now.
Nobody mentioned Jones' homer for a good minute and a half. It is definitely spring training.
- Pirates color commentator John Wehner spent actual minutes extolling the virtues of the sacrifice bunt without actually mentioning any of the virtues. I am compelled by his lack of a compelling argument. More hitters making outs on purpose. That’s what today’s game is missing. It is just good baseball!
5. Assorted Notes From The Game Also in Bullet Form
- Can you see a horse drinking a beer at a regular season game? No. No you can’t.
- Buckholes gave up a double on a two-strike count to Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke who looks:
- Mike Napoli walked. He jogged to first base. His hip did not disintegrate.
- Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias is widely known for two things: 1) Being an amazing defensive shortstop. 2) Being able to hit as well as a fish. A fish because as you’ll note fish have no hands so they aren’t very good hitters, typically. In the second inning, Iglesias grounded one up the middle for a single. He’s going to be the first batting champion with gills.
6. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Photobomb!
Okay, that one is from Monday’s game but I couldn’t resist. Happy spring everyone.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now