Yesterday was another hallmark day for baseball fans, as teams throughout
Florida and Arizona played the spring’s first full slate of exhibition
games. And while no conclusions can be drawn from one day’s worth of
baseball, enough interesting things happened to make for a fun day:
- In Peoria, Ariz., the new strike zone claimed its first victim, with
the Mariners’ David Bell getting ejected for arguing a strike call
(albeit an outside strike) in the Mariners’ win. The high strike was
the story of the day, as pitchers, hitters, and umpires began what will be
a month-long learning process.
I think the first interesting information we’ll have on this is a few weeks
into spring training, once we can compare a couple hundred games to last
spring’s statistics and see what impact, if any, the new zone is having on
offense in general, and strikeouts and walks in particular. In truth,
though, we’re not going to have a clear handle on any differences until
well into the regular season. The x-factor, as always, is how long the
umpires will stick with the changes.
- The best news of the day came out of Jupiter, Fla., where Mark
McGwire played the field in a game for the first time since last June.
McGwire claims his patella tendon is healthy and he’s ready to play a full
season, which is great news for the Cardinals and good news for fans of
The stories about McGwire’s contract extension were full of accolades for
McGwire "taking less money," along with McGwire’s views on the
complaints some players have had about their lots in life.
Look, McGwire is, by all accounts, a hell of a guy, and he may be the best
first baseman ever. But the idea that he, or anyone else, has some right to
decide for other people what "enough" is is wrong. People have
the right to negotiate their salary whether they make $50,000 or $50,000,000.
If McGwire is content to take less than his market value, that’s his
decision. It doesn’t make him a better human being, though. His work for
abused children, his love for his son, his passion for the sport: those
things make him a good man. Simply taking less money than he could make
doesn’t, and those who use his decision to castigate others for wanting to
maximize their earnings–and no, I don’t mean
the idiots demanding
renegotiations of valid contracts–are wrong to do so.
A final note on McGwire: there’s talk that he could be challenging Hank
Aaron‘s record of 755 home runs in the last year the contract. Ignore
it. McGwire would have to average 60 home runs a season just to get within
30, and as well as he’s aged, that’s a ridiculous thing to expect from a
37-year-old who just missed half a season.
- Deion Sanders‘s comeback started poorly, as he went 0-for-4 in
an exhibition game against the Twins. Chris Kahrl had
no printable comment.
- In case you were wondering where some guys are…Rich Becker is
the Marlins’ camp; Ralph Milliard is trying to impress the Indians;
Orlando Merced is with the Astros; Cole Liniak has surfaced
with the Blue Jays; Micah Bowie is trying out for the A’s.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by