People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.
It has been 142 days since the New York Mets have played a baseball game. The Wild Card game was a tragic way to end our long season. Being shut out by one of the games best postseason pitchers put a thorn into the hearts of Mets players and Mets fans. Our hearts were broken, our dreams were shattered.
Resigning Yoenis Cespedes was like a patch being placed over our broken hearts. The start of Spring Training was like a thread being sewed on to heal and fix our broken hearts. The atmosphere in Port Saint Lucie gives us hope for the start of the season, as it always does.
The Mets played their first televised Spring Training home game today against the Washington Nationals. They lost 8-6, showing some fight, as they always do. Despite the loss, the magic was back. Gary, Keith and Ron were in the booth cracking jokes and bringing their very knowledgeable insight about the game while Gelbs was on the sidelines interviewing familiar Mets faces.
Spring Training is for players to get into the swing of things…Literally. The players are rusty, the games don’t count and teams call on their prospects to come in after the starters depart from the game.
There was a play today where one of the Nationals players was playing too hard for a Spring Training game. That of course is my opinion. As Nationals player, Rafael Bautista was approaching home in the top of the 6th inning, he slide head first into Kevin Plawecki’s left leg. Bautista did not touch home plate during the slide but later did after he realized the ball had popped out of Plawecki’s glove. Plawecki fortunately only suffered a left knee contusion. Things could have been worse.
Injuries are certainly going to happen over the course of Spring Training and 162 games. However, I don’t believe that players should go extremely hard risking their health and other players health. A player can give 100% but they should be wary that Spring Training games do not count. A prospect can feel that he needs to give 100% to make the 25 man roster but he should be showing that through his hitting and fielding ability.
This brings me to the topic of Spring Training records. Do they matter? Why do some people care about them?
As silly as it sounds some fans look at Spring Training as their team’s future success. The correlation between Spring Training and regular season numbers such as batting average or ERA, are very weak. A great example of a Mets player who had a great spring yet a disappointing season was Michael Conforto. He did carry that success over with him to the first month of the season batting over .340 but after that month he suffered through the rest of the season.
The reason for his April success was due to the pitchers he faced. Some pitchers in Spring Training and in the first month of the season don’t quite hit their groove yet. That is part of the reason why Conforto had his success. The pitchers eventually figured out their stuff and figured out Conforto. When Conforto got himself into a slump, his mental side of the game also suffered. It also didn’t help when Terry Collins benched him, but that’s another topic to discuss.
The game itself does matter but the record does not. Players work on their pitching mechanics, fielding, baserunning and hitting during their time in Spring Training. It’s all about them going through the motions and the adjusting to speed of the game, something they missed during the off-season. Players like David Wright and Zack Wheeler use Spring Training to relearn the mechanics they lost due to the time off from surgery.
I do not believe on most cases that team record and the players statistic correlates into a team and players overall regular season statistics. Players like Trevor Story and Kyle Kendricks did show success in Spring Training and did carry that over into them having a huge 2016 season. Other players like Felix Hernandez and Jacob deGrom, failed to hit 90 mph on the radar gun last spring but dialed up the heat during the regular season.
Bottom line: baseball is baseball. The 2017 season is finally here and we should enjoy it before it’s over and before it breaks our hearts again. And hopefully for us Mets fans instead of a broken heart, we can raise that championship banner, the first in 31 years.