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Oh Fluff, How I've Missed You

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Take us home, John Hickey:

PEORIA, Ariz. -- To look at Adrian Beltre, you'd think he'd muscled up during the offseason.

His forearms are bigger. His biceps are bigger...it is clear Beltre is in top physical shape.

Hot damn, Beltre's back! Only, wait, uh oh, it can't-noooooooooooooooo!!

But now (Player A) looks like a new man. Much ... skinnier?

"Leaner," said the nine-year big leaguer, who lost one job at first base when the Mariners signed Richie Sexson and another at third when Adrian Beltre signed. "I went from 14 ½ percent body fat to 8 ½."

Trainer Rich Griffin was impressed by the offseason effort, noting that (Player A) probably ranks among the top 10 altered bodies the Mariners have seen in back-to-back seasons.

(Player A) simply cut way back on sugar and carbohydrates.

It's one thing to talk about how Felix has slimmed down and gotten into shape over the winter. That's a big story, and one worthy of celebration, because Felix's poor physical condition easily could have played a significant role in his struggles a year ago. But Beltre? Not so much. I mean, it's obviously worth mentioning, but readers need to be careful not to run too far with it. After all, unlike Felix, the shape of Beltre's body was never an issue, just as it wasn't an issue with Player A back in 2004. I mean, if Steve Buscemi gets a new haircut, great, talk about his new haircut, but don't jump to any ambitious conclusions, because no matter what he does up top he's still an ugly-looking son of a bitch who'd get less ass than a McAfee Coliseum bleacher seat if it weren't for his celebrity.

The point being, to be worthy of a big story, one needs to address the big problem, and that's not what's taking place here. Adrian Beltre's struggles in Seattle have never been due to a lack of upper-body strength; anyone who saw him blast that ball at his eyes over the right-center fence for a walk-off homer against the Yankees knows better than that. The man's an ox. He's just an ox with lousy pitch recognition, and all the muscle mass in the world won't help him differentiate between a fastball and a slider. Just look at Gabe Kapler. Hitting's always brains first, brawn second, and without the former, the latter means nothing.

The isn't a criticism of Hickey. It isn't a criticism of anyone, really - it's more of a pre-emptive strike against people who'd otherwise put way too much stock in what is, at its foundation, a pretty meaningless observation. So Beltre looks bigger. Neat. If he has a huge 2007, it's still not going to be because of his arms.

Over the next several weeks we're all going to be inundated with fluff pieces about how well everyone's doing. There's value in the stuff if you're willing to dig, but unless you keep from believing everything you read without any critical thought, you're going to be sorely disappointed when the Mariners fall short of an unbeaten season.