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Why MLB Spring Training Is the Silly Season

Is there more wasted energy at this time of year than spring training? Other than an an IRS appeal, I mean.

For six torturous weeks, hundreds of well-conditioned athletes go through the motions in 30-something games that mean absolutely zero, and their greatest challenge is to…stay awake?

As one Pittsburgh Pirates player told me last spring, “The game isn’t like it was decades ago. We have our own workout programs in the off-season, and almost all of us are in good physical condition when we get here.”

In other words, if spring training was lopped in half, only the local bean-counters would know the difference.

“It doesn’t take position players more than a couple weeks to get their rhythm and timing down,” the player went on to say. “If you’re a pitcher, you may need another week or two to stretch out your arm. But five weeks? That’s way too much.”

That’s not the only reason why spring training is the silly season.

Here’s the short list:

15. Hope spring’s eternal in training camp. Yeah, right. The truth is, about three of every four teams have been eliminated from World Series contention already.

14. Can you think of anything that quickens the pulse like a split-squad game? Me, neither.


13. Players, managers and general managers who make predictions for their teams that are miles from reality.

12. Manny Ramirez is there. Again.

11. A lot of time is spent on fundamentals, but when the regular season starts and all you see are missed bunts, botched pickoffs and 20-second rundowns. Then there’s Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett, who will be sidelined for two months after he fouled a pitch off his face.

10. People travel hundreds and even thousands of miles to see their teams get beat by the New York Yankees, something they can witness back home in a few more weeks.

9. Remember when position battles were a reason to follow spring training? Because of long term contracts, they’re all but extinct now.

8. Players with football numbers on their backs. Seriously, I’ll have beers with Megan Fox before they make an Opening Day roster.

7. The Astros invited 61 players to training camp this spring. There would have been more, of course, but Joaquin Andujar and Tuffy Rhodes had previous engagements.

6. The games are more bor-r-r-r-r-ing than an intentional walk. (My solution: Have Ozzie Guillen manage every one. The Miami Marlins skipper actually got the heave-ho on Monday afternoon.)

5. Parking. In most cases, space is limited and prices are outrageous. The funny thing is, if you wait a few weeks, they’ll pay you to park there for a minor league game.

4. Concession prices. They’re worse than the parking costs.

3. Ticket prices. They’re worse than the concession prices. According to SeatGeek, the average ticket for a Red Sox game will set you back 58 big ones.

The Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees will soak you for even more. And you’re lucky if the regulars play five innings.

2. Individual statistics don’t mean squat. A guy can hit .960 and not improve his chances to head north with the team.

Even managers and general managers will tell you that they pay more attention to the, uh, scenery than the numbers because of the quality of competition or lack thereof.

1. Team records mean very little, if anything. Of the 11 teams that won at least 55 percent of their games, guess how many went on to earn playoff berths?

Exactly three.

The team with the best Grapefruit League record of all? It was none other than Twins, who were so prepared, so jacked up for the regular season that they lost only 99 games.

Kind of makes you wonder how many games they would have lost without spring training, doesn’t it?

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2012 MLB Spring Training: Updating 20 Biggest Injuries in Camp

Do you think the Sizemore family doesn’t matter?

Just ask the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics, who already have lost one of their own in training camp and been left to scramble for replacements.

The early days of spring training have seen a number of assorted hurts and physical setbacks, some of which are sure to impact the regular season. In reverse order, here are the 20 most significant ones thus far:

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Pittsburgh Pirates: Clint Hurdle Pulls Switch on Order, Spares Team

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MILWAUKEE — Another day, another Pirates lineup.

This afternoon Neil Walker will move from fourth to third in the batting order, while Ryan Doumit will occupy the clean-up position. Doumit made four starts there last season.

Matt Diaz will bat fifth against Milwaukee Brewers starter Chris Narveson, a left-hander.

“I might not be done,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve had more success on the road than at home, but our offense has not been offensive.”

At that point, I recalled a statement made by John McKay, the late Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach. Asked what he what thought of his team’s execution, McKay deadpanned famously, “I’m in favor of it.’”

Hurdle grew up in Florida and was a fan of McKay’s back in the day.

So I kidded, Does he feel that way about his own team?

“I’ll plead the fifth!” Hurdle laughed, a wide smile on his face. “I’m behind my boys 100 percent!”

The Pirates batting order: Andrew McCutchen, center field; Jose Tabata, left field; Walker, second base; Doumit, catcher; Diaz, right field; Lyle Overbay, first base; Pedro Alvarez, third base; Ronny Cedeno, shortstop; Jeff Karstens, pitcher.

The Brewers batting order: Rickie Weeks, second base; Craig Counsell, shortstop; Ryan Braun, left field; Prince Fielder, first base; Casey McGehee, third base; Mark Kotsay, right field; Brandon Boggs, center field; Jonathan Lucroy, catcher; Narveson, pitcher,

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