I’m the LaTroy Hawkins of Mets fandom.
At least I hope I am.
LaTroy Hawkins, 40 and a veteran pitcher, hasn’t pitched in a game yet and is not particularly concerned about that. He thinks spring training is too long, doesn’t seem too interested in the World Baseball Classic, and says he’ll be ready for the season.
Jason Fry, 43 and a veteran fan, has watched games somewhat half-heartedly so far and is … well, I don’t think I’m terribly concerned about that. I think spring training is too long, don’t give a fig about the World Baseball Classic, and sure hope I’ll be ready for the season.
I’ve thought spring training is too long for years, largely because it is: Pitchers need time to force their arms to adapt to the unnatural, ultimately destructive things done to them while standing on a mound, but for batters spring training is a holdover from generations ago, when guys drove trucks or sold clothes all winter, and a good chunk of them arrived in Florida needing to be turned back into athletes after an offseason spent like the rest of us. (Or, it seems, like Johan Santana, here thrown under the bus by Sandy Alderson via six or seven different conditionals and circumlocutions.) Now baseball players spend their off-seasons under the thumbs of nutritionists and personal trainers and hopefully staying away from dodgy Florida clinics. While pitchers torture their arms into surrender for another season, hitters arrive more or less ready and as fans we just hope they can make it six weeks without getting hurt/bitten by an alligator/succumbing to trouble in restaurant parking lots/going dangerously stir-crazy.
Yeah, hitters talk about getting their timing down, but of course they do — they’re hitters. It’s like CPAs chattering about taxes. Hitters talk about losing their timing when they wind up in slumps in May or July or September, too. Is that because spring training’s lessons have faded away? It’s all silly.
What would make more sense would be for pitchers to face minor-leaguers — who are gung-ho and have tons to prove — until St. Patrick’s Day, at which point the hitters would show up, everybody would don horrible green uniforms for a day, and the real not-real games would begin, to mercifully end after two weeks, which is pretty much when the novelty of spring training wears off and becomes a plodding grind.
Since my plan has zero chance of being adopted, I’m approaching spring training on the LaTroy Hawkins plan — and this year, at least, I’m finding that a fit for the 2013 Mets.
I’m interested in seeing more of Matt Harvey, of Zack Wheeler, and of Travis d’Arnaud — those guys are the keys to our medium-term future, which means no sifting through tea leaves is too much. I of course want the best for Jon Niese and Dillon Gee and David Wright and Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada, whose years will probably determine whether the Mets leave 2013 looking ready for their resurrection or in need of an execution. But those players are making the team and I have baseline expectations for them — their dramas will unfold during the regular season, not March.
As for the rest of the club, I can’t get myself worked up about what bullpen spaghetti will be judged to have stuck to the wall by April 1, since those judgments will likely have little to do with how things go in the regular season and they’ll soon be replaced by newfound sagacity. Nor am I interested in an early read on what synonyms for “bad” and/or “pathetic” will prove most appropriate for our outfield. I’ll have six months to torture myself about that problem, so why start now?
I used to know it was truly spring when my blog partner would get anxious that this was the year he really wasn’t feeling it, and his fandom was in peril. (In case you haven’t noticed, that’s never happened and never will.) For my part, I’ve come to accept that this is a normal March for me — a mixture of anticipation for the season and increasing certainty that all this noise and makework has little to do with that season.
April 1 really is coming. And I’ll be ready. But I’m getting ready on the LaTroy plan.