So we finally got past the first day of cuts that mattered a little. Farewell, Bob Keppel, Anderson Hernandez, Craig Brazell, Danny Garcia, Aarom Baldiris, Joe Nelson and Andy Dominique. If they hurry they can catch the just-cut Tim Hamulack, John Pachot and Jesus Flores.
I suppose Brazell and Garcia are the only vague surprises in the bunch. Emphasis on vague:
One gets the feeling Craig and Danny have crossed that invisible but
definitive line that separates “Prospect” from “Trade Bait.” Oh well,
that's baseball. Brazell will always have beaten the Cubs late last
year, and Garcia will always be the first Brooklyn Cyclone in the
majors. (Real Cyclone:
Farcical rehab assignments don't count.) And Benny Ayala will always
have hit a dinger in his first at-bat, for all the good that's doing
him right now.
I've been boring in my insistent campaigning for kids over vets, so I
suppose honor compels me to note that it does make sense to go with
veteran bats early. It would be cruel to make Brazell and Garcia bench
players; anything they've got left to show us will only come out if
they play every day, even if it's in Virginia in front of sailors. What
drove me crazy last year was spending August and September watching
retreads about whom we couldn't possibly discover anything new, and who
had no conceivable role to play even in our mid-term future. How on
earth did this team let Gerald Williams collect 129 at-bats? 130 ABs
for Wilson Delgado? A roster spot for Brian Buchanan? For what
Y'know, every spring training is like past-life regression, if one had
lived the same life over and over again. (Stick with me, man, there's a
point in here somewhere.) Tonight I was pondering the different
possible makeups of our middle-relief corps when it struck me that none
of it mattered. Like every team, we'll make some dog-and-cat trade with
another organization on March 30 to get the roster down to 25 guys, and
it'll make the calculus about the last couple of spots academic. Then
there's the probability that, like all teams with unsettled middle
relief, whatever we break camp with will be reshuffled by June 1st.
Going north as a marginal middle reliever is like being in the first
wave of minefield-clearers.
I bet I realized the exact same thing on March 10, 2004 while pondering
Orber Moreno, Ricky Bottalico and Dan Wheeler. Or whoever it was at the
time. I'll now set my watch for 2006. Struck by the futility of predicting middle relievers? Hmm, must be March 10th.
Though this ignores the basic truth: Spring training distracts you from
the fact that it's still freezing by offering the chance to obsess over
whether there's anything left to be squeezed out of Manny Aybar's arm.
Pretty silly, but it beats the snot out of staring out the window and
waiting for spring.