Archive for the ‘Spring Training’ Category

Spring Training 2008

February 21, 2009
The buffer Miggy. He still couldn’t play defense.

Spring Training is an odd time of year. Teams play games, but they don’t count. Players play well enough to earn spots on the team, but then, they don’t perform in the regular season. Teams play well, but they fail miserably in the regular season. There are a lot of reasons for this, most of them obvious. One, it’s a small sample size, and anyone can have a good month. Two, there’s no real strategy involved other than getting players in the game, but no match-ups are used and coaches want to see the players hit/pitch instead of bunt/intentionally walk. Three, when teams use other players, the performance changes (good teams use more AAA players and lose, for example). Four, injuries become more visible and more prevalent when the season gets underway. There are probably other reasons, but you get the point. Anyway, I thought we’d take a look at the standings from last season and its Spring Training.

This is the Spring Training standings.

A few things about the playoff teams:
1) The Phillies were terrible, and look how they ended up.
2) The Rays showed early signs of being good.
3) The Cubs were just mediocre.
4) Boston was terrible.
5) The Angels were worse than the A’s.
6) The White Sox were awful.
7) The Dodgers were see 7.
8) The Brewers were better than the Cubs.

So, as you watch your favorite team this Spring Training, don’t get too excited/pissed about your team’s play. Spring Training is a terrible predictor of how things are going to go, but I would love to see how many experts use it to predict the regular season. The regular season is a marathon, and there’s no point in looking at Spring Training as anything more than a few exhibition games for show. Though, I will admit it can be useful in certain circumstances, but those circumstances aren’t really known until October.

So, Jayson Stark, don’t make your prediction for the World Series based on Spring Training. Leave my Braves alone.

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The Cactus League

February 18, 2009
It’s a little outdated.

Professional baseball had been played in Arizona since the early 1900’s, but they were simply exhibition games as teams were training for their regular season march. That changed in 1946, when Bill Veeck, the owner of the Cleveland Indians, proposed the move to Arizona. The reason, according to Veeck, was that he believed Arizona to be a safer place to bring newly signed Larry Doby (Doby had to stay in a different hotel the year previous while in Florida — typical treatment for blacks at the time, even professional or famous ones), who would later become the first black player in the American League. But before that could happen, Veeck declared that he wouldn’t go there unless the New York Giants came with him. Horace Stoneham, the Giants owner, agreed.

In 1951, the Yankees asked the Giants to switch them Spring Training locations for the year. The reason this is important is because Joe DiMaggio, in his last Spring Training, would hand over the torch to the young Mickey Mantle, in his first Spring Training. The Cubs also came down for a series against the Yankees that off-season, and while there, Arizona officials heavily advertised the area and convinced the Cubs to stay in Arizona the next off-season. Arizona was becoming more viable.

Teams would gradually start coming out to Arizona for the spring, and by the 1970’s, there was a stable number of teams: Angels, Brewers, Cubs, Indians, A’s, Padres, Giants, and Mariners. However, the late 1980’s saw the Spring Training landscape shift. Florida, who had seen the economic power this could be, began swaying teams to come back to Florida. However, Arizona Governor Rose Mofford tackled the big boys from Florida. From 1993 to 1998, ballparks sprung up all over Arizona to keep teams in Arizona while bringing others there as well. Continuing the effort, Arizona officials expect to keep bringing teams and making the Cactus League an important part of Arizona’s economy.

Teams in the Cactus League:
Arizona Diamondbacks
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Colorado Rockies
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of Southern California of California of the United States of North America of the Western Hemisphere of the Earth of the Solar System of the Milky Way Galaxy of the Universe (Yes, I will continue to bash the name because it’s simply ridiculous, but you have to at least give me credit for typing that all out. No? Okay, fine, but I’m going to do it anyway)
Lois Angeles Dodgers
Milwaukee Brewers
Oakland Athletics
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers

The Grapefruit League

February 17, 2009
This pretty pin will cost you $6. I thought things were supposed to be cheaper in Spring Training.

The Grapefruit League, one of the two Spring Training “leagues” (the Cactus League is the other — come back tomorrow), somewhat began in 1908. In October of that year, the Cincinnati Reds played the St. Petersburg Saints while down in Florida, but the first “real” “Spring Training” was in 1913 when the Cubs came down to Tampa.

Tampa Mayor D.B. McKay lured the Chicago Cubs down to Florida promising to pay the expenses, up to $100 per player, in order for the team to come and practice at Plant Field. On February 19, a large crowd gathered to watch the Cubs take the field for practice. The Cubs had won pennants from 1906-1908 and 1910, but they had finished the 1912 season in third. Manager-Player John Evers hoped the sun would bring the team back up. As part of their time down in Florida, the Cubs played the Havana Athletics in a three-game. Just a little ways away, the Cleveland Indians were practicing in Pensacola.

Those were the only teams in Florida in 1913, but in 1914, the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Athletics had joined the others in Florida. Sunshine Park became the marquee stadium in Florida, situated in St. Petersburg (a place once referred to as a backwater by Barney Dreyfuss — though to be fair, it was when Dreyfuss said this, but he didn’t think St. Petersburg would ever be able to support the industry). By the 1920’s, cities throughout Florida were involved a fight for major-league teams as cities faced off for tourists.

During WWII, the economy and Kenesaw Landis prevented teams from traveling south through the “Potomac Line”, which forced teams to stay closer to their cities in the North. In 1946, he repealed the ban, and teams flooded back to Florida. Over the years, all but 6 teams have played in Florida as part of the Grapefruit League. Those rascals are the Anaheim Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Today, 16 of the 30 major-league teams make Florida home for the spring. They are:

Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista)
Baltimore Orioles (Fort Lauderdale)
Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers)
Cincinnati Reds (Sarasota)
Detroit Tigers (Lakeland)
Florida Marlins (Jupiter)
Houston Astros (Kissimmee)
Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers)
New York Mets (Port St. Lucie)
New York Yankees (Tampa)
Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater)
Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton)
St. Louis Cardinals (Jupiter)
Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte)
Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin)
Washington Nationals (Viera)

The recent defection was the Los Angeles Dodgers. Vero Beach had been Dodgertown since 1948. The Dodgers reason that Arizona is much closer to their fans in Southern California, but don’t tell that to Florida Dodger fans. In reality, the nice new $80 million complex was a major advantage, but they will share the new stadium with the Chicago White Sox, who moved from Tuscon to Glendale.

Still, baseball is going strong, but many wonder how the economy will affect attendance in these games.

Spring Training

February 16, 2009
This is the “loosey-goosey” time of year.

Finally! Spring Training is here. This is one of the best/worst times of the year. It’s great because it means that baseball is here again. It’s terrible because nothing that happens over the next month and a half counts, and it’s even a couple weeks longer this season. We just have to suck it up, watch, and hope no important players get hurt. Still, Spring Training is an integral part of baseball and baseball history. Let’s go over that history.

Spring Training as we know it didn’t necessarily have a particular starting point. In 1886, the Chicago White Sox stopped off their barnstorming tour to play a team before playing the regular season, but it was just a game, not an organized warm-up for the season. Four years later, the White Sox and the Cincinnati Red Stockings held the first camps before a season, but some argue that the four-day Washington Capitals camp held two years earlier was the first moment (don’t you just love how baseball has this great history but no one knows the years things started?). Regardless, the idea for an organized Spring Training came from Red Stockings manager Gus Schemlz. He petitioned the owner to allow the team to train in the south, the players and team splitting costs and potential profits. Owner Aaron Stern agreed, but he liked the idea of figuring out which younger players could replace older, more expensive players. By the 1890’s, more teams started their own camps, but they were just that — camps, not organized competitive exhibition games. Players usually held other jobs during the off-season, and these were important for getting players in shape.

In 1910, the Grapefruit League began, and Spring Training became institutionalized. It wasn’t until around this time that teams practiced in places other than their home cities, but considering all the teams were still in the North, traveling down South wasn’t a bad idea. At this time, there still weren’t the major spots of today, and teams were scattered throughout the South. During WWII, traveling and playing these games became expensive, and most Spring Training locations shut down. Commissioner Kenesaw Landis and Joseph Eastman, then, came to a compromise that moved locations farther north. Teams had to play closer to their home cities.

Immediately after WWII, Arizona interests began attracting teams to Arizona, but teams had been practicing out West before. The Cactus League was created in 1947, and teams began coming to Arizona to play. By this point, Spring Training became a business, closer to today’s version. Better facilities, schedules, etc. began being built over the country. As time passed, Florida and Arizona became the two prime spots. Recently, Arizona has made serious attempts to lure more teams away from Florida, and the two states now have a rivalry for this business. Las Vegas even made an attempt to bring four teams, but it failed.

Today, teams either go to Florida or Arizona. If they go to Florida, they are part of the Grapefruit League. If they are in Arizona, they are in the Cactus League (I figure that you know this, but I figured I should make sure).

For now, I’ll dub this week “Spring Training Week”, and I’ll have more stuff on it as the week goes on.

Sorry for not having much up lately. I had a few tests and papers last week, and then, I had to go back to Louisville to help work on a project for the lovely people that sent me to England last summer. I had to get my s*** together, so I couldn’t post on here. Things look good for this week and so on.