For most of us it's probably old news at this point -- nevertheless, like a slumbering bear yawning out of hibernation for a moment, I feel the need to stretch out and remind folks of several essential truths about Spring Training. They are as follows:
- It doesn't matter how great the veteran looks, he's still going to have a year almost certainly on par with his last one. We may see articles about a mook like Alfonso Soriano being healthy, in shape, defensively ready, prepared to lead-off (god please no), but by the time May rolls around it will be the same-old same old.
- There will be stories about rookies too old to really be counted as prospects anymore who are lighting the league on fire. Most of them will get cut anyway. Some will make the team in the final roster spots. None are going to pull a Roy Hobbs (or is Jerimy Linn the new metaphor?) and save the team.
- The players will speak glowingly about him. The media will herald his works as though they are wonders. And yet Dale Sveum is not a managing genius whose prowess from the dugout will suddenly, somehow propel the Cubs into a playoff spot during the season. He may have ideas that will shake up the team; he may focus them in ways that will improve their play; he is not a miracle worker -- and by the end of the year, 10% of his players are going to probably hate him.
- That guy who came to camp 25 pounds heavier and ready to compete? He's juicing and he won't make the team. Sorry.
- The likelihood of that young pitcher tearing up the league being Major League ready is on par with the likelihood of the veteran pitcher getting his ass burned every outing being used up and burned out.
- Buying into the notion that things are suddenly different/going to get better is akin to believing that a battering spouse has turned a page and is no longer a danger. Things probably are getting better, and the team probably is different in a positive way, but there is no magic wand that changes a tradition of losing toward the direction of perennial competition.
- Optimism is cheap. Results are pricey.
Don't get me wrong. I love the way things are looking, even as I accept that the next Cubs team competitive enough to actually win a World Series will likely be comprised of by no more than 2 or 3 members of the current team. And this could even be a 1995 kind of year, where a scrappy team pulls together and delivers a few surprising months of insanely good baseball resulting in a near miss of the playoffs. Or they could even make the playoffs. By God, weirder things have happened.
But right now we are just in the Hype Phase. That's all that this is. Results, talk, defeats - these are all meaningless. And while we can certainly use our brains to surmise that this Cubs team is going to be lucky to win 76 games, we really won't know the direction they are headed in until probably the middle of May. So perhaps you can think of this time as being like one of those popcorn thrillers that we all occasionally desire to see -- fun for sure, a pleasant distraction from the rigors of life, but empty, meaningless, and ultimately unfulfilling.