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.
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.