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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Spring Training Is Making Us All Crazy

I have a modest proposal: dismantle the spring-training media-entertainment industry.

No, really. Because it’s making us all crazy.

Spring training exists for two reasons:

1) Pitchers need time to strengthen their arms to do a better job at something profoundly unnatural that will eventually hurt them, possibly in a catastrophic, career-ending way.

2) Towns in Florida and Arizona like money.

That’s it.

Today’s hitters need spring training the same way you and I need to go spend six weeks in an anonymous subset of Florida scrub choosing which sub shop and Wal-Mart to visit. Spring training for hitters is a vestige of when players drove trucks in the winter or served as ornamental employees of insurance shops and auto dealers. They’d show up to huff and puff off their winter weight. Now hitters spend the offseasons tinkering with nutritional regimens and hitting. They’re there because they’ve always been there and because pitchers need someone to throw to.

The rest of spring training is stupid and maddening and ultimately counterproductive.

We watch games in which teams wear parodies of real uniforms, nobody we’ve heard of is around after the fifth inning and the outcome matters not a whit — yet dingbat fans act as if it does. If there’s a subspecies of fan dumber than the spring-training heckler, I’ve yet to meet him. “If David Wright doesn’t drive this ball against this Double-A palooka I’m gonna GIVE HIM THE BUSINESS!” Uh-huh. It’s March, champ — have another hot dog and be grateful for the sunshine.

Yesterday it was breathlessly announced that the Semi-Mets and Sorta-Braves had set an attendance record for Whatever Field in Port St. Lucie. Outside of five to seven guys at Whatever Field, I cannot think of a sentient being who could possibly care about this.

The media passed that tidbit on, because what else are they going to do? They’re stuck in Port St. Lucie for six weeks like everybody else, going slowly crazy reporting things that we all know don’t qualify as news. Bartolo Colon will start today. Lucas Duda might start at some point. The Mets don’t have a real shortstop. Matt Harvey is still hurt. Noah Syndergaard will be awesome, but he won’t be awesome in a way that matters until June, because contracts and money. Riveting!

It would be no less honest and only slightly less interesting to report the reps guys do on weight machines.

BREAKING: Niese sets calf press to 90. Second set of reps may follow. #Mets

But that wouldn’t bring in fans and ad dollars the way pretend baseball games do. (And even then, have you seen SNY’s spring-training ads? If you’re a maker of crummy furniture on Long Island and can’t figure out where to spend your ad dollars, you’re obviously not trying.)

Players go crazy too, of course. Harvey tweeted that he’d be back this year. Someone on the Mets presumably scolded him about this, so he untweeted it, which was about as effective in making the story go away as you’d guess. I don’t blame Harvey. If I were in Port St. Lucie I’d be re-enacting “A Beautiful Mind” in my motel room by now or making a Fortress of Solitude out of gum wrappers and spit. Veterans fall prey to this too: Carlos Beltran dutifully answered the old question about the Mets being lousy to him and so created a one-day quasi-story. It had the desired effect of getting idiots riled up and bringing us a day closer to no longer having to endure this period of non-anything.

Oh, and I just read that Ike Davis is in a walking boot. Terrific. I’m sure all matter of insightful medical analysis and level-headed fan forecasting is on tap.

I’m not going to link to any of the above because it’s all profoundly pointless. It’s intellectual rotor wash generated by trapped people who have no choice. I don’t blame Port St. Lucie’s hostages for this behavior. Instead, I want to help them.

Let’s untelevise spring training. Send the reporters home to be with the families they’ll have to miss from April to October. Create a list of fun apps for players to occupy themselves so they don’t wind up driving anywhere else at 825 MPH or assaulting pizza delivery boys in parking lots. The reporters can show up the day rosters are cut down to 27 or 28 to write one story about the guy in the best shape of his life, another about a roster battle that no one will remember in June, and to make predictions about the entire baseball season, down to the exact second the World Series will end and what the DJIA will be that day. Maybe we can even televise a game or two. That would take about a week, which would be about right.

We’d be sad at first. But then we’d realize it was for the best. Spring training doesn’t make me happy anymore. I don’t think it makes anybody else happy either. The idea of it is fabulous, but the reality is tedious and witless and is making us all crazy. And it’s got to stop.

18 comments to Spring Training Is Making Us All Crazy

  • dgw

    I ignore all of the “stories” that are generated this time of year.

    Spring training is good for days like today: It’s snowing outside, and for a couple of hours, I’ll be able to hear the crack of the bat, the sound of baseball hitting leather, and the sounds of Gary Keith and Ron in the background…

    • I enjoy the sounds of baseball too, main reason I put it on, but you really could accomplish this with a webcam or two and a microphone.

      It’s fun to watch the players workout in person, and to enjoy some sun and beer and peanuts and watch a game that means nothing.

      There are even worthwhile things to talk about. cut days and where guys are leaning for roster spots (actually leaning, not just “Random source says the Mets might or might not think about playing X player in left field”) are useful.

      But yeah, most of it’s just noise. But this isn’t unique to spring training or baseball or anything. There’s more noise everywhere and it’s increasingly on the consumer to sort it. Want to hear about a new phone release? here’s an article and 241 reposts of said article and here buried among them all is an intelligent discussion about what this means for you.

  • kd bart

    Way too many reporters and bloggers in one spot reporting on very little actual news. It’s like a political convention.

  • dak442

    I think I like the idea of Spring Training more than the actual thing. It’s funny – I start counting the days to Pitchers and Catchers pretty much the day the season ends. When that annual picture of Mr. Met loading the truck is emailed/in the papers, I am giddy. Then the big day arrives, and… meh. I’ve watched three innings so far.

    I even found attending ST in person six years ago a letdown. I paid all that money in airfare and lodging for THIS? A couple of innings of real players and then scrubs. Where is the interaction I was expecting? Where are the accessible players? Why did this ticket cost $20?

  • Will in Central NJ

    “Wha…cancel all televised coverage? Then how will I know what this year’s spring training workout cap looks like? With a running Mr. Met? That I gotta run out and plunk down cash for??”

    (Ahem) Yes, actually, I also like the idea of Spring Training moreso than when it actually takes place. I’ve watched a few live innings only, maybe just as many on ‘SNY Encore’ showings. And, I’m quite happy with my sweat-stained faded blue Met cap.

  • Ken

    You sound angry? I love baseball! I have found myself being interested in a little league game. Spring training is fun to me, you get to see some future stars or guys you never heard of! Its baseball pure and simple!
    Just enjoy, and stop the negative bs?

  • Seth

    Ouch! Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! :-)

  • Dave

    Pro spring training: I’m sick to death of winter, arrival of baseball reminds me that life keeps moving, things are refreshed and do return.

    Con: we’re watching guys wearing #79 who might as well be playing in Pawnee, Indiana when the season starts.

    Root of it all is 24/7 multimedia. They need something to sell ad space or time, they need clicks and viewers. Walter Cronkite warned us that cable TV would make it happen, and little did he know how much worse websites and blogs and social media would make it. It’s why we have Kardashians and reality shows and absurd claims of political scandals. There are 7 billion potential viewers, listeners, likers, followers and whatever else, all up for grabs, and the media’s job is to grab.

  • Ed

    I enjoy Spring training it gives me something to look forward to! C’mon Greg couch is here what’s really going on?

    A few comments about Sunday’s game though: Gotta love Ojeda in the booth with Kevin Burkhardt. Awkward laughter from Bob as Burkardt told him how good he looked in his shirt!

    Bobby O explaining how pitchers are just getting their work in but some at bats are notebable between the major hitters. (Medlin vs Granderson), Was very sad to se Medlin getting hurt – that was good tv drama.

    Mets rally in 8th includes a single down RF line and flubbed by rightfielder including rolling over on his rear.

    End of the inning flyball to same right fielder – a bunch of cruel fans heckling him “Don’t fall down….don’t fall down!”

    Yep I love spring training but all the reporters and bloggers could cool down the Woodward and Bernstein act a bit. It’s a game boys!

  • EMW

    What will you come up with to complain about next? Spring Training is fun. Just like baseball in general – it is fun. Nothing cosmic. Entertainment. A great diversion from an all too serious world. If you don’t like ST, don’t pay any attention to it and go argue politics, shovel your front walk, or do whatever else you like to do. I like being in a cozy, friendly stadium with people having a great time and Mets on the field. While one is watching the game, the score matters as much as it does near the end of the season, when your team is already mathematically eliminated from the pennant race. It is still fun to watch and still fun to root for our team, ST is the appetizer that precedes the main course that begins on opening day. And maybe in two or three years you will see today’s goofball on the roster. And if not, it is still the best damn fun you can have for $15-$20.

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    Funny, I look at Spring Training as the only time of the year you can dream about the Mets actually having a chance to win it all.

    Then they go up to N.Y. and pretend they arer a major leaguer baseball team.

    Sunshine, 80 degree weather, hot chicks in shorts andd tank tops, stretched out on a blanket watching a game, $8.00 ticket.

    At least we are still in there race sat this time of year!

  • APV

    After watching the Giants and Knicks suck all year and the Islanders struggle and lose their superstar in a glorified exhibition tournament, forgive me if I completely disagree with you Jason. Oh I still think the Mets are more likely to lose 90 than win 90 this year (guess I’m in prove it mode after the last few years) but at least they’re playing baseball. And it doesn’t matter if they win or lose. Even opponents’ feats, like Stanton’s bomb yesterday, aren’t that grating.

    If you’re gonna kvetch about spring training, maybe you should take your own advice from last year, but change the word “Summer” to “March.”

  • Spring Training is the Best

    What do you consider the games after May, once the Mets are already eliminated and “Playing out the string”?

    Are those meaningful games?

    You are paying over major league prices to watch a minor leaguer team then.

    I would rather be at spring training games where at least you still have hope, as opposed to having them playing out the season with more crickets and vendors in the stands than fans.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    Once starters can go five innings or so, the need for spring training is over for with pitch counts nowadays, starters don’t go past the seventh even when in mid season form.

    And if you wish, come to Fordham University and I can have you re-enact the pentagon scene from “A Beautiful Mind” on the location from which it was shot at.

  • Dennis

    Great piece Jason! Those have been my same sentiments about spring training for awhile. Even though it’s an early heads up that a miserable winter is close to being over….I still find it dull. Yes, it’s great having baseball back, but I have 162 games coming up that actually mean something to look forward to.

  • Ed

    I think it wouldn’t hurt if the Mets could get some good looking girls/women in the stands of these spring training games. Bunch of grumpy old men out there is all I see. How about that Dad losing his kid so he could catch a ball? That would be me.

  • I think you bring up a good point Jason. But what really irks me is not spring training itself, but, like you say, the media embellishment of it. And I do watch certain players and demand or judge em at times. Not all of em, but the positions that need improvment. Thats almost what spring is for, for me. This spring I’m demanding Tejada show me that he’s really trying to improve his game. So far he’s failing. I think a fan can get into peripherals like that and enjoy spring games.

    Your point that grabs my attention is about hitters always being in shape these days and how they don’t need spring training to get up to snuff. You’re right, it’s all about pitchers getting up to “stuff”.

    Now if spring training is going on, please don’t not have it televised. I haven’t seen every inning but, jeeze, it’s Mets baseball. I want to be able to watch.

    No, I think your not going far enough. Do away with spring training altogether. With the money players get paid these days (AND the money the teams make) they should be considered year round employees.

    They should report to work in the off season to some team training center. Do some light workouts, have their condition monitored, stay in shape. Hitters should not be expected to play games or even hit every day, and pitchers should be rested but also able to work on other things besides throwing a pitch. Cripes, they could work their legs all off season. Maybe right before the season have a nice 3 game series with a rival team to get the ball rolling. Start the season April 2nd the latest.

    Maybe we can get the it back to where the World Series ends in October.

    Yea, we both sound like old men yellin at clouds, lol.