For some reason, baseball has a monopoly on their pre-season period generating excitement. NBA and NHL pre-season is lightly reported on, and the NFL is significantly more popular but splits things up between OTAs, minicamp, and actual training camp, so that they lack the definitive date that is “February 17th, White Sox pitchers and catchers report”.
Now, it’s not like things become a big barrel of interesting now. Pitchers will be going through throwing sessions until the position players arrive on the 22nd, whereupon everyone can start doing group jumping jacks together before actual games are played beginning on the 28th. While games bring forth the first real performances to actually analyze, usually anything short of a player dominating to previously unseen levels or looking unqualified to play in the majors needs to be somewhat disregarded, or taken just for the small sample size existing outside of a true competitive environment that it is.
Spring Training isn’t necessarily the payoff our excitement for baseball is craving.
But it is something. A weakened substitute to hold us over. Baseball methadone, if you will.
Also, it’s hard to find a Spring Training more important in recent White Sox history. With the heavy amounts invested in the off-season, this squad will be pressured to show signs of being able to return on the $130 million of investment early and often. Fans and press will want to get verification of the power of Adam Dunn, they’ll want to see that Konerko is the same player from last season, that Gordon Beckham is ready to make a leap, and that Jake Peavy can top 80 mph.
While expectations were certainly higher in 2006, that year had the rosy afterglow of a World Series victory that left few questioning the $27 million uptick in payroll, and few worries about the team’s true ability level. This season, that level of reassurance is not only absent, but the first signs of trouble will stir worries of money wasted, incompetent GMs, and too much player loyalty. The combination of extended pocketbooks, ramped-up expectations, and an aging roster creates a level of urgency that will probably inflate a couple of spring training stories beyond need (Quentin’s only hit 1 HR in 50 PAs!, Peavy can’t hit 90!, Adam Dunn’s beard can’t be shaved!). It’s not much of surprise that players have responded to this by showing up earl
Panic is an easy mode to reach at this point, because as much as this marks the beginning, it also marks the end. The end of the off-season, when all idle pining for change, all pie-in-the-sky roster changes are done and buried. The White Sox have their roster in place in all the important areas, and will have to lurch forward as is. It can be scary, but it’s also very exciting.
Over the next few weeks, while also reporting on every relevant development that comes up, I’ll be rolling out some larger-themed season previews. I just completed 40 player capsules for 2010, so I’m absolutely sure that’s not what I’ll do for previews. Expect a summary of dominant trends of the season, a breakdown of what to expect and how much weight to put into player groups, assessment of the competition, and maybe some foolish predictions.
There is definitely a lot to pull away from Spring Training, but I fear that most wind up pulling away more than they should, so here’s a rudimentary breakdown.
-The only thing really worth freaking out about is injuries. Everyone got through healthy? Then it’s a successful Spring Training, no exceptions.
-Don’t get too discouraged. These guys are working out the kinks, tinkering with approaches, and various other things not present when actual games need to be won. No freaking out if Alex Rios hits .190, or if Mark Buehrle has a 19.00 ERA, or if I become obsessed with the number 19
-Don’t get too high. Our 40-man roster is playing against other teams’ 40-man roster, so just because Paul Konerko hit 8 home runs off of John Q. Gonnaworkatadelisoon, doesn’t mean he’s better than ever.
-Look for what translates. Does Peavy have velocity? Can Viciedo take walks now? Can Mark Teahen bend his knees?
J.J. previews the 5th starter dilemma, where he dares to doubt Philip Humber on the basis of negative scouting reports and bad stats.
Jim Margalus wonders whether Paulie can repeat previous heights.
U-God from South Side Sox breaks down AL Central right-fielders.
Cheryl Norman of South Side Hit Girl remains eager for Spring Training.
Melissa Miller, the new girl at CN, recaps the Sox off-season, and how it didn’t leave her feeling like Antwone Fisher when all was said and done