Why I can't watch Spring Training games


New contributor Keith R.A. DeCandido on why watching Spring Training games is silly. (Also: Vernon Wells? Really?)

First off, hello there, everyone! My name is Keith R.A. DeCandido, and I'm the newest addition to the ever-growing stable of Pinstriped Biblers. Unless you are a reader of science fiction and fantasy-type stuff, you probably haven't heard of me. While my SF/F writing credits are legion (50 novels to date, as well as a mess of short fiction and comic books and things), my baseball writing is a bit more meager—though it will be considerably less so moving forward. Most recently, I was the co-editor (with the mighty Cecilia Tan, co-editor of the Baseball Prospectus annual tome) of In the Dugout: Yankees 2013 published by Lindy's Sports, which included an excellent roster preview by the good Mr. Goldman—not to mention a look back on the 2012 team written by me.

Every Monday (life and other deadlines willing) I'll be poking on here with some commentary about the New York Yankees, whom I have followed enthusiastically since the age of seven. That was the 1976 team: Thurman Munson was (and remains) my favorite Yankee, and I never looked back, even after the debacle of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I went to my first game on my birthday, the 18th of April 1977, against the expansion Toronto Blue Jays. That was fifty-four years to the day after Yankee Stadium opened (a game attended by my paternal grandfather at the age of seventeen) and one year and three days after the refurbished Stadium opened up (attended by my maternal grandfather at the age of sixty; he'd worked on the construction crew that did the remodeling from November 1973-March 1976).

Moving forward, I will probably talk about all kinds of stuff—as I write this Sunday afternoon, my Twitter feed is exploding with the news of the Vernon Wells trade, which is only not making me foam at the mouth because… No, wait, I am foaming at the mouth. Yeah. I'll get to that next week after the dust has settled and all the Angels fans stop laughing.

Since late February, there have been an endless stream of blogs, articles, and Tweets on the subject of Spring training games, and I find myself glazing over all of them with a major case of the galloping I-don't-give-a-damns. Back when YES was showing their first Spring Training game, my mother—who is as avid a fan as I (we once spent half a day arguing over whether or not it should have been Derek Jeter rather than Alex Rodriguez who moved to third base, with me on the Jeter-to-third side, a position I retain to this day)—asked if I was going to watch it. I could only reply, "Why???"

(Vernon Wells? Seriously? Seriously???)

I fail to see the value in watching a Spring Training game. There's a reason why rehearsals are generally closed to the public. These are games that don't mean anything against competition that isn't trying to win a ballgame, they're trying to get in shape for winning ballgames.

(Acquiring Vernon Wells is a sign that your season has jumped the shark—and it hasn't even started yet!)

This was an easier position to defend in the not-so-good old days when ST games weren't televised and we didn't have a 24-hour news cycle. And honestly, the thought never even occurred to me that anyone would want to watch them, or give a rat's patoot what the results were. It's not like there's any correlation—in any direction—between Spring Training won-loss record and regular-season performance.

(Did Hal Steinbrenner lose a bet with Arte Moreno?)

But watching Spring Training games is a lot like watching the All-Star Game. You start out with the players you came there to see, but it's not too long before the roster filler that nobody gives a damn about is playing out the string, and the last three innings are spent trying desperately to figure out who the hell is on the field. ("That's who the Royals sent???" in the All-Star Game, as opposed to, "Who's #94 again?" in the Grapefruit League.) This would be the same All-Star Game that has become increasingly irrelevant despite MLB's attempts to "legitimize" it by making it "count."

(Or maybe Moreno has incriminating photos of Hal?)

When I was a kid, I was on the grammar school soccer team. Our coach believed that the most important thing was for everyone to have fun, and to make sure that everyone got a chance to participate. The end result was the worst grammar-school soccer team in the history of New York State. Seriously, we not only never won a game, we were never in any danger of winning a game. We only ever even had a lead once, and Coach then put the three worst players (one of whom was me) as the forwards, and the lead evaporated in fairly short order. I mention this mainly because that's the exact same way the All-Star Game is managed, and the exact same way Spring Training games are managed. Why watch that?

It isn't baseball, it's practicing so you can play baseball. You don't listen to Yo-Yo Ma when he took cello lessons as a kid, yo go to his perfomances. I'll start paying attention in April when it's actual baseball.

(Vernon friggin' Wells. It is to weep.)

Follow Keith on Twitter @KRADeC.

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