clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why we care about spring training and baseball reporting

It's a time of BSOHL and swing adjustments and scary scorpions. Spring training is here.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Enjoy this, baseball fans.

Right now, across backfields around Florida and Arizona, reporters are tweeting photos of invading scorpions, bullpen sessions and Pitcher Fielding Practice (PFP).

Those same muckrakers are not yet jaded by the constant Florida-ness of the spring, of the monotony, of the low stakes.

Right now, they are young and fresh and ready to cover baseball, tweeting with a verve not seen again until Opening Day.

Spring training is back. With it comes one of the biggest times of baseball media criticism that has a simple question at its heart.

Why should we care?

BSOHL Astros Tracker

Brad Peacock! - Lost about 30 lbs.

Carlos Correa! - First BSOHL sighting in Spanish.

* * *

Are the reporters who have descended on Florida and Arizona doing it wrong?

This article certainly suggests as such, with some very pointed criticisms of the process.

This is not to suggest newspapers (and other media outlets) not have reporters at spring training. Of course they should. This is instead an appeal to sports and assignment editors across the board to think outside the box and recognize spring training for what it really is: an expensive, six-week sham of non-news stories packaged as must-read, daily journalism.

Right now, there are at least four media outlets covering the Astros spring workouts and GAMES HAVEN'T EVEN STARTED YET. I think I counted two different TV personalities down in Florida so far, not counting Julia Morales with ROOT Sports. Add in and the Chron, plus TCB's own contingent who will be there in a few weeks, and there is a ton of interest in the spring.

Why are newspapers and TV stations still going? Why are they covering these non-events?

Tradition certainly means something. Completeness of coverage also does. No one is going to punt a game between two last-place teams in September and you can't punt spring training. What if something amazing happens, like A-Rod showing up early?

For reporters, it's all about building relationships. Most interaction with managers and players is more controlled during the season. In the spring, things are looser. Storylines can develop. Maybe a reporter hears something that isn't big enough for a story at the time, but he or she can track through the next few months for a bigger story later on.

Is that enough to justify spending six to eight weeks in Florida?

New Approaches

Mark Appel! - Cleaner delivery

Jason Castro! - Blending 2013 and 2014 successes

* * *

Spring stats don't mean anything.

Every year, we have to bring this up. Spring stats don't mean anything. Spring records don't mean anything. They have no predictive power. They mean nothing. Guys have raked in the spring and fallen flat in the regular season. Guys have struggled in the spring and gone on to win batting titles.

Yet, everything here means something. The coverage of spring training is so intense that every swing tweak, every slump and every bullpen session gets covered.

We know more about players practicing in the spring than we find out during the season. Well, unless a bullpen session goes nuclear.

There is a study every year at this time that shows how little spring stats mean. You know this. I know this. But we must keep bringing it up because it's easy to get lulled into thinking these things matter.

Truth is, most roster decisions aren't made just on spring performance. There's been a lot of work done scouting these players and studying how they fit on a roster. Getting coaching perspective on how they perform in Florida is important, but it's one piece of a greater picture.

Unless Houston cuts J.D. Martinez again. Then the process is wrong.

Hair Updates

George Springer! - Mullet.

Dallas Keuchel! - Beard scrunchie.

* * *

What's funny is how similar people covering a team can think at this time. Most of the winter stories have been told. Most of the season previews are in the works. What's left is a collection of the types of things that get cliched.

It's also why this spring training story generator is so funny, especially to those who are in the habit of consuming every baseball story that comes out.

Even the best writers aren't immune.

After the Astros media luncheon, there were multiple stories on how Luhnow and new manager A.J. Hinch were besties. That their closeness has helped the process in adding players to this team and will help synergize things moving forward.

Implied was the criticism of Bo Porter's tenure with the Astros and the rift that developed between him and the front office.

Never mind that, because of the way the last relationship broke down, it's in the Astros interest to present a united front at this event. That this could be a calculated move to show just how hunky-dory the relationship is now.

Maybe they really do have a close relationship. It makes sense. The player development background may make them more sympatico in decision-making. But, it's too early to tell for sure. We also thought Bo Porter would have a great relationship with the front office before his first season.

What else are they going to write about, though?

Injury tracker

Josh Fields :( - Mild hamstring injury

* * *

So why do we get excited about spring training?

It's simple. It's why Ernie Harwell would always recite this stanza from a poem each spring. Springtime is here and with it, baseball. It's a great time, an exciting time. Every team has hope. Every team can win the World Series. The lows of the regular season are still a distant concern.

For now, we can dream and dream and dream. For now, we can hope that Mark Appel will turn into a golden god, whom the gods reached down and turned his right arm into a thunderbolt. We can wonder what George Springer will do in a full-time role and become absolutely giddy at the prospect of those Springer Dingers.

We've waited all winter for baseball to be back. That's why spring will always mean something special for baseball. It's why we overreact to every little thing and why these first days of workouts are so heady.

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.