Friday, March 03, 2006

Lobbing Grapefruits

One of my many personal baseball superstitions is that in order for the team I root for (formerly the Orioles but for many years now the Phillies) to have a successful season, it must have a lousy Grapefruit League record.  Being a superstition, I have never dared to review the data to determine whether or not the final results supported the initial belief.  Nothing ruins a good superstition faster than the facts.

In any event, the Phils season is underway following yesterday’s exhibition win over the New York Yankees.

An article in today’s Inquirer contained a number of interesting game notes and other tidbits.  

Ryan Franklin had a lousy outing and then had the temerity to declare he was working on his sinker and was satisfied under the circumstances.  (By the way, the aforementioned superstition does not extend to individual players.)  True, the best time to work on your game is during the exhibition season, but getting raked is, well, getting raked.  After the game Franklin declared, “I know what I need to work on. I know what I need to do."  So do I, Ryan.  Get men out.

In the same game Ryan Madson, bidding to make the starting rotation, had a very good outing while Gavin Floyd, bidding to make the roster, had a less than stellar time, throwing behind one batter and giving up a bomb to another.  Afterward, Floyd had this to say:  "I just went after it.  I thought I did OK. I was a little erratic times, but who cares?"  Who cares?  Great attitude for a guy who is on the bubble.

In the same article it was noted that two former Phillies – Larry Bowa and Joe Kerrigan – were making their first appearances with the Yankees.  Bowa is their new third base coach and Joe Kerrigan is the new bullpen coach.  Bowa tossed compliment after compliment his former team’s way, especially when talking about Jimmy Rollins, always Bowa’s favorite player, and Chase Utley.

After the game, Kerrigan was quoted as saying that working in pinstripes is “baseball heaven”.   Presumably, listeners declined to point out to him that the Phillies also wear pinstripes albeit red not black.   They can be forgiven, however.  No one who remembers Kerrigan’s tenure here would have referred to heaven; instead, if they dared to recall his stint here at all they would have pointed in the other direction.

Meanwhile, Pat Burrell bombed a home run and then limped around the bases and was later removed from the game.  Pat had off-season surgery on his foot and doesn’t appear to have fully recovered yet, a distinctly alarming situation.  Otherwise, Pat seems in mid-season form when it comes to dealing with the media.  Why, exactly, Pat is so surly and antagonistic is not altogether clear.  If he harbors resentment over the reaction to his two disastrous back-to-back seasons of 2003 and 2004, he should be reminded that in reality people stuck with him and applauded his recovery last year.  He was the subject of a rather lengthy piece recently (I cannot recall where) discussing everything from his own status to his relationship to his longtime friend Jason Michaels.  Yet generally he seems to carry a chip on his shoulder and make himself unavailable to the press, even during the exhibition season.  

Remember, Pat, we’re talking practice.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

My negative feelings toward the entire WBC charade notwithstanding, I duly read the piece on ESPN’s website recapping Japan’s 18-2 win over China in the series opener.   The game was called after eight innings due to the mercy rule.  That should generate lots of enthusiasm going forward.


tc said...

I feel the same way about preseason games but I have never looked at the numbers either. I have wondered if maybe good teams just don't get as up for preseason games as bad (or mediocre) teams. Take this series with the Yankees. The Yankees are always good. They are superstars. They are as close to a lock for the playoffs as you can get in baseball. They can work on mechanics and focus on little things to prepare because they know they will be good. The Phils, on the other hand, are coming out like they have something to prove. They are swinging away. (I haven't actually seen this, I am just judging from the box score and various blog postings).

The thing is, if the Yanks are focused on smaller, in game things, they might not be very good competition. The Phils might be fooling themselves and think they are in better shape than they are.

Man, I have been a Philly fan for two long if I am this negative after two preseason wins.

Nat said...

As much as I love spring training and going to some Grapefruit League games (which has as much to do with getting away from winter and sitting out in the warm sun with a cold beer as it does with watching baseball), the one thing you have to keep in mind about these games is that they really... really... really... don't... mean... a... thing.

And the minute you begin to think the spring games mean something, you need to sit down and watch one of them. You'll quickly be reminded that they really... really... really... don't... mean... a... thing.

Tom Goodman said...

Sorry, Nat, but when a pitcher gets consistently bombed that means something and when a batter cannot get a hit it means something else. Now, do these spring flings predict the future once and forever? Absolutely not. But if, say, a Ryan Franklin works on his sinker and it yields a 5+ ERA, I'd predict his future with the Phils would be less than certain.

nat said...

Well, sure Tom. And if a guy breaks his leg in a spring game, it's a good sign he'll get off to a slow start. But I was commenting on the notion expressed that a *team's* performance in spring *games* is somehow indicative of how the season is going to go. To that I said these games really don't mean a thing.

Spring training games, like superstitions, are OK if you don't take them too seriously.