3/6/10

Miscellaneous Spring Training Inanity: Exhibit A

We're on the record as being unhappy about the results of trying desperately to find a good storyline when there's no regular season to be had. Spring Training is somewhat of an exception to that line of thought, because it's the end of a long offseason, and we start to see our favorite players in uniform, and we have highlights of games, and it's exciting and hopeful. So we go out looking for little news articles here and there about what sort of interesting things are going on around the league...and we end up with reporting that is inconsequential at best and irresponsible at worst.

Now, far be it from us to decry the state of baseball writing when (a) there's not much going on of substance to write about, and (b) we've spent a substantial amount of time over the last like month imagining a 2-on-2 basketball tournament among MLBers. But still...we clicked over to espn.com for a brief baseball fix amidst studying, and found some articles that really ground our gears. What follows is what we hope becomes a regular feature: a fairly shameless ripoff of the FJM style of writing - i.e. find a dumb article and make fun of it. If you haven't already been there, shame on you, but check out www.firejoemorgan.com. They're not still active, but the archives are plenty of fun to sort though, and they're a fairly big influence on us, so we recommend the site wholeheartedly. Anyway, in their spirit, let's get to the fisking! Columnists' words are in bold; we're in regular font. Because, y'know, true to the roots!

Exhibit A: A Scratch-less Fivesome, by Jerry Crasnick

What does that even mean, you might ask? Well, if you've read any number of Spring Training articles, you might know that it's about that whitest of all sports...

Golf was a wonderful bonding ritual for Greg MadduxTom Glavine and John Smoltz in Atlanta

So there you go. A shoehorned-at-best headline that immediately leads into a comparison of the best rotation in modern times. Surely the Angels will be so gifted, yes?

Bridging the fashion gap in the clubhouse might be their biggest challenge.

Well, never mind the improved Mariners and Rangers lineups. And the generally stiff competition in the American League. Or, hell, MLB hitters in general. 

[Joe] Saunders, a 2-handicapper, brought his sartorial A-game to the park. Before dressing for Wednesday's workout, he took a retina-searing ensemble of electric chartreuse shirt and blue plaid pants with gold stripes and hung it in front of his locker.

We don't actually know what chartreuse is, but we're fairly sure that if Jerry Crasnick says it's retina-searing, then the pitchers should probably not look. Their jobs may be at stake!

When Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with Boston, the dynamic suddenly changed. If you gave the Angels a buck every time they've heard that the team now lacks a true No. 1 starter, it would cover a lot of $2 Nassaus. 

We don't actually know what a Nassau is, but why pick that as the reference? And, yes, we're too busy to simply Google this business. But it's because most of our time is spent wondering why Mr. Crasnick is writing an article about how the Angels rotation will be better because their best pitcher left and they don't have a replacement. If you're an Angels fan, we hope Nassau is alcoholic. And if it is, rest assured it will go in your season preview around these parts.

"For me, it's not, 'You're the No. 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.' It's about winning. Period," [pitching coach Mike] Butcher said. "I don't want our guys focused on getting 200 innings. I want them getting 33 starts and trying to win 33 games. That's their mindset."

"For me, it's like, all these guys aren't especially good so we just hope they stay healthy enough to provide some value. And, oh, did I mention that we're going to play 3 extra games this season?"

One thing the Angels have is variety. The rotation consists of three righties and two lefties, Kazmir and Saunders. Weaver is a rangy 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, while Kazmir, listed at 6-feet, 190, is the most compact pitcher of the group.

Oh good! Variety! That'll help! Hitters will be baffled when they see Jered Weaver striking an imposing 6'7'' figure on the mound instead of that 6'0'' pipsqueak Kazmir. TOTALLY UNEXPECTED!

None of the five pitchers is as outwardly expressive as Lackey, whose bulldog bona fides were substantiated during a mound encounter with his manager during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees in October. When Lackey looked up and saw Scioscia coming out to pull him from the game, the TV cameras caught him mouthing an epithet and pleading several times, "This [game] is mine."

Well, fortunately for Mike Scioscia, his starters are apparently going to be lucky to get out of the fifth inning of any game anyway, so if they yell at him, no one will care. Plus, bulldogs are kind of terrifying sometimes. Who wants to deal with that? Not Mike Scioscia, we bet.

A Lackey supporter might have viewed the emotional display as a sign of competitiveness, but you could make the case that Lackey was also putting his manager in a bind. Even Saunders, a friend of Lackey, questioned whether the gesture was proper baseball etiquette.
"John might have known it was his last game as an Angel and he wanted to go out on a good note," Saunders said. "He was consistent -- he pretty much wore his emotions on his sleeve no matter what the game was.
"But you still have to respect the manager and his decision. I was brought up not to show any emotion on the field regardless of how I do or what happens. I might talk to [Scioscia] in the locker room afterwards. On the field, there's no place for that."
We know that was a long clip...but let's recap. In the paragraph before these three, Mr. Crasnick was all like "BULLDOG! YEAH!" and then in the next three 'graphs, the people he was interviewing were all like "Well, Lackey was kind of a dick, and we didn't really think he was in the right to yell at the manager for making the right decision." Conflict!
Kazmir feels invigorated in Anaheim for two reasons: He hooked on with a new trainer and made it through a killer workout regimen in Houston in the offseason; and he's reunited with Butcher, his former pitching coach in Tampa Bay.
Oh, so Kazmir is in The Best Shape Of His Life, you might say?? How delightfully cliche! Also, it's worth mentioning that Kazmir had steadily declined in Tampa Bay, to the point that they shipped him across the country to LA. But, hey, Mike Butcher!
"He'll benefit me a lot," Kazmir said. "He saw me when I was doing good, when I was feeling right and throwing the ball max effort. Now that he sees me throwing like a robot, he can take a step back and say, 'This is what you need to do. This is what I remember."'
Because if there's one good piece of advice to give to young pitchers with a history of arm troubles, it's 'throw max effort.'
"The only time you need a No. 1 guy is on Opening Day and for the playoffs." [Jered Weaver said.]
Yes, the playoffs. When John Lackey was leading the staff, the Angels came to expect they would be playing baseball deep into October every year. Just because he's on the opposite side of the country, don't expect that to change.
First of all, Mr. Crasnick, the focus of this article was how the team's best pitcher departed. Second of all, the best reasons you gave for their improving because of this was that (a) they have poor fashion choices (b) they drink lots of cheap drinks that we've never heard of (c) they vary in height from 6'0'' to 6'7'', and (d) Scott Kazmir is reunited with the guy whose philosophy of 'just throw the ball as hard as you can' led him to have a great season and then steadily decline into poor control and arm issues. 
And, third of all, the bit about Kazmir immediately preceded a paragraph about how Mike Scioscia is always coy about his #1 starter and that quote from Weaver about how they don't care who's #1. Fix your transitions, sir!







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