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Things That Don't Matter

Mariners Win Meaningless Game That Is Somehow Still Meaningful, 6-5

Luis Sardinas, All-Star Smiler
Luis Sardinas, All-Star Smiler
Luis Sardinas

"I still catch myself feeling sad about things that don't matter anymore."

-Kurt Vonnegut

There are lots of things that don't matter in this life that we get wrapped up in nonetheless.

Unless you are currently in high school, your high school GPA doesn't matter. (It might not matter anyway.) Neither does your high school boyfriend or girlfriend, or if you even had one, unless you are now married to that person. Sorting your e-mail into meticulous, perfectly categorized folders does not matter. Whether or not you've read a particular book doesn't matter, unless you are in school and compelled to read said book. What people you don't particularly care for anyway post about on Facebook doesn't matter. In fact, what people you don't like are doing doesn't matter at all to you or to your happiness. Parsley, as a garnish, definitely does not matter.

Sports, by and large, do not matter. And spring training games especially do not matter. They matter so little they are practically anti-matter. Terms like "small sample size" and "shaking off the rust" and "butterflies" are more often invoked than statistical analysis, and any report from spring training includes the caveat, the constant refrain: "It's just spring." There's always a "but." However, a piece at Beyond the Box Score found, in studying the relationship between spring training and regular-season records, a slightly positive correlation between the two:

"The result: a positive correlation of .325 with an R2 of .105. In other words, about 11 percent of a team's talent level is reflected in its spring training record. It's not a very strong relationship, but it does exist."

So spring training games matter a little. And to young players trying to prove themselves, to relievers aiming to lock down a spot in the bullpen, to older players attempting to show there's still some gas in the tank, spring training matters a lot. For some of them, spring training is the difference between toiling in steamy, landlocked Tennessee, two hours away from the nearest major city; or being stationed one I-5 bus ride away from the big club. As a baseball player, a lot of your life is out of your control--where you play, when you bat, what city you're in. We joke about "best shape of his life" or a player not going all out for a ball as making "a business decision," but spring training is an opportunity for the hundreds of players we don't see on a daily basis to exercise a modicum of control over their fates.

Today's game mattered to Luis Sardinas, the young shortstop/utility infielder acquired in November from the Brewers in exchange for Ramon Flores. Sardinas is the dark horse in the competition with Chris Taylor and Shawn O'Malley for the utility infield role; you can read Anders's excellent write-up on him here. The Mariners were trailing the Padres 0-1 when Sardinas stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth and lifted a double over the head of the left fielder, scoring both O'Malley and his good buddy Benji Gonzales: 

Scoring some runs reminded the rest of the offense--who had been bunting (what?) and swinging at first pitches and overall not "controlling" the Zone so much as "poking at it, giggling, and running away"--that scoring runs is a good way to win baseball games. The Mariners had singled and sac-flied their way to a 4-1 lead in the top of the 7th when Sardinas, who must really hate humidity, stepped in against Carlos Pimentel and did this, from the other side of the plate this time:

Pitching-wise, things were a little shakier. Nathan Karns pitched two scoreless innings but not without dirtying up the bases with a few runners after struggling to hit his spots in the first inning, and Joe Wieland gave up two hits and one run in his two innings of work, although he did record a strikeout. However, I missed most of Wieland in the second inning because Dreamy Dipoto stopped by the broadcast and revealed that he ensures his players have a grasp on the world around them by requiring players to do oral reports on What's New in Other Baseball Leagues. I'm really digging Jerry Dipoto: Coolest Sixth-Grade Teacher Ever. This game also featured the first appearance of Steve "Gumby" Cishek who of course was involved in one of the weirdest plays you'll see all Spring Training, because normal is for the plebes:  kr4ZqQv.0.webm

Sorry that won't embed, but apparently where Cishek is concerned, nothing can be simple. That's a 3-6-3 double play featuring a ball caroming off Stefen Romero's knee, which apparently has better accuracy than Brad Miller's arm (Sorry not sorry!). Hi weird baseball, missed you. Romero had to leave the game after this, which is a situation worth monitoring. But hey, at least Cishek wasn't charged a meaningless run in this meaningless game, and even more, picked up the meaningless win, despite Casey Coleman allowing the Padres a glimpse of hope by giving up three runs--including the game's sole home run, a two-out, two-run shot by Christian Bethancourt--before getting Carlos Asuaje to line out. The Mariners win, the Mariners are 2-0, the Mariners are one of four teams in the Cactus league to be 2-0, and Luis Sardinas is leading the team in RBIs. In a month, none of this will matter. Some would argue it doesn't even matter now, that these stats are just so much parsley sprinkled over a long baseball season. But they do add a bit of zing, don't they? I guess I still catch myself feeling happy about Spring Training victories.