Spring training doesn't mean anything. We're all aware. Or we should be aware. What a player does in March has no bearing on what he will do once the season starts. It's the same for the guy raking day after day as it is for the player struggling to get going. It doesn't matter.
And, at the same time, that's the beauty of spring training—especially when you're down there. Yes, none of it matters, but can we pause a minute and consider things contextually? We're talking about baseball. Just baseball. It's a children's game played by grown men for unconscionable sums of money. It's all absurd, and getting upset at those who enjoy positive spring moments is completely non-sensical in the grand scheme of things.
So yes, when you're down there, the fact that none of this matters is the best part. You enjoy the highlights and you brush off the negative moments, fully aware that both mean little. You're watching just to watch, and in that way, it's baseball at its purest.
This was my first spring training. I flew out Friday afternoon, arriving at a cheap hotel late that evening and heading out the next morning for the first of what would be seven games—concluding with Wednesday's extra-innings win over the Cubs.
Here are my thoughts, having now nearly recovered from more sun than my pale Irish skin can bear and a night spent on the floor of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Again, I know none of this matters—but here are my impressions, here's what I enjoyed.
- Brad Miller can play. Everything I say here may well be confirmation bias, as I enjoy Brad Miller's play as much as any Mariner I've seen, but I saw nothing to dissuade anyone's running optimism that Miller could explode for a 4 or 5-win season. He put on 15-20 pounds of bulk, and it shows. No longer the long-legged gawky shortstop, he's now built like Troy Tulowitzki. And though there were concerns this could slow him down in the field, everything I saw made me believe he'll be better defensively this year. He doesn't have the range Brendan Ryan did (who does?), but he has a quick first step to the ball and the arm is looking real strong.
Also, I just don't buy the "Miller is better on defense, Nick Franklin is better on offense" narrative. Miller is always in control at the plate, where Franklin can look quite defensive up there against big-league bendy stuff. In the night game against the Diamondbacks, Miller fell into an 0-2 count against a lefty before stinging a triple into the gap. The dude exudes confidence at all times, whether it's during a game, in the cage, or pulling out of Chik-fil-A at 9:30am in his beemer (yeah, that happened).
And oh God, the defense. It looks so damn easy. I feel like his style on defense played a huge factor in supporting the "Robinson Cano doesn't hustle" narrative on a subconscious level, but the reality is that this is all so easy to him. Whether it's during a game or doing extra work and fielding a bucket of balls after the rest of his hitting group left for the half of a split-squad doubleheader (that happened too), he's casual-but-flawless out there.
Oh, and he happily signed for several people multiple times while I was there. Of all the players recently handed lengthy mega-deals by other teams, I'm so glad we have our guy over them.
These are baseball men, and they're all business. The quotes from Lloyd and others had me encouraged early on, and that optimism has only grown having seen them in person.
The other night, after the Diamondbacks game, Paxton said he didn't have his best control—and he didn't walk a single guy. He hasn't walked a batter all spring. It's unreal. James Paxton is a different pitcher, and we're nearing the point where we feel really excited about him.
There's more I could say, but there's always more to say about the Mariners. I liked what I saw, but how could I not when the team only lost one game of the seven I saw? This is spring training, and it's the time for optimism.
I'm happy to answer any questions anyone has, whether they're about baseball or spring training in general. But I'll say this, spring training is as great as everyone says it is. If you're the type who's been thinking about heading down to Arizona one year, but haven't yet, get on that. It's worth it.