Spring Training has begun; pitchers and catchers have reported; seamheads are ramping up to their 6 months of euphoria. There was actually an unusual story coming out of Arizona this year; it seems that some of the Cubbies’ younger players gathered there on their own about a week in advance of the start of “formal Spring Training” and began working out amongst themselves. That does not happen often – if ever; moreover, it prompted Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon to say that he did not want his players “getting ahead of themselves” and that he really preferred if they would just calm down and go with the team program. I said the story was unusual; it is not often that a manager or a coach worries about his team working and practicing too much…
Having cited that unusual story coming out of Spring Trailing – or actually prior to Spring Training to be completely accurate – my suspicion is that it will be the only unusual story we will see/hear/read in the next 6 weeks. I will exempt the “unusual catastrophic injury” from this statement because injury stories are – almost by definition – unusual and worthy of being called news. Other than that, we have already begun to see the standard fodder of Spring Training reporting with the various breathless stories about how fat Pablo Sandoval seems to be. Folks, that is not news; Kung Fu Panda has been fat for the entirety of his MLB career.
Coverage of Spring Training is sort of a time-extended version of the 2-week hype that the NFL commands in the time between the Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl. There is not nearly enough real news to report to fill 6 weeks of newspapers/magazines/blogs/ talk shows/sports centers but that simple fact need not stand in the way of hyperventilating reporting from and about Spring Training.
As I tried to do in the 2 intervening weeks of the NFL season prior to the Super Bowl, I will try to avoid the not-surprising run-of-the-mill Spring Training stories. Moreover, I would like to suggest to readers here that there are indeed interesting Spring Training stories you might want to pay attention to – – if they were ever to be reported.
The REAL stories of Spring Training are mundane and often do not have happy endings. Spring Training is about making an MLB roster; who starts the season in the majors and who does not. Clayton Kershaw need not worry; Giancarlo Stanton need not worry; Kris Bryant need not worry; folks similar to them need not worry about anything other than a calamitous injury.
The REAL stories concern the borderline players – maybe 5 or 6 guys at the most in each camp juking for 2 or maybe 3 roster spots. Some are rookies; some are vets looking for one more year in the bigs; some are players coming back from serious injuries and folks do not know if they can play even a little bit. Folks, those are the stories of Spring Training and you will not hear much of anything about any of them – other than Pollyanna Pieces – until sometime around March 28th.
Staying with baseball, there is a story from Yahoo!Sports that says an MLB agent, Bart Hernandez, has been arrested subsequent to an indictment by a Federal grand jury on charges of human trafficking.
Whoa! Time out!
When I hear the term, “human trafficking”, my mind enters the realm of sex slavery or forced labor or indentured servitude that never ends. If Bart Henderson did any of those things, I would be happy to report that he is serving a VERY long sentence in the hoosegow. However, reading into the details seems to indicate something else.
What Henderson is accused of doing is to “smuggle” a Cuban outfielder – Leonys Martin – into the US such that martin could sign a deal with the Seattle Mariners. Let me be clear here:
I am not an expert on immigration law other than being able to know how to spell it.
I do not want to build a wall between the US and Mexico nor do I want to build a seawall between the US and Cuba.
I do not know Bart Henderson from Bart Simpson nor do I know Leonys Martin from Rowan and Martin.
With all of that out in the open, even if Bart Henderson did what he is indicted for, that is not exactly the horrific commission of what I associate with the term “human trafficking”. To be sure, the indictment says that Hernandez represents other Cuban-born players who seek a career in MLB; the indictment suggests that the Leonys Martin situation is not a stand-alone event. Even if I were to buy into the wording the indictment that Hernandez “did willingly … and knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with [other indicted folks] … to commit an offense against the United States”, I still think that what he might have done there is about a light-year below “human trafficking for sex slavery” on the scale of scumbag human endeavors.
If Hernandez broke the law, he should be punished for that act. I have no problem with that outcome if the prosecution can prove it in a court of law. Until then, I will regard Bart Hernandez as someone who is about to stand trial in a Federal Court who stands accused of something that has a label that might be a tad misleading.
OK, let’s do this rant entirely on baseball… CBSSports.com had a report recently that said the MLBPA and MLB might be bargaining over a draft lottery for MLB similar to the concept used in the NBA. The current CBA expires on Dec 1, 2016; the preliminaries for the kabuki dances that dominate the early approaches to negotiations are about to begin; nonetheless, this is a surprising topic. The MLBPA seems to be OK with this given the commentary offered by MLBPA head honcho, Tony Clark:
“It will be beneficial to look at that and not look at it in a vacuum but appreciate whatever it is that we attempt to negotiate there or propose there, that it ties into the other moving pieces and doesn’t create an imbalance.”
The report says that there is an “increasing concern in baseball” about the concept of tanking and that concern has created the environment that allows for this sort of discussion to take place. Fine, I have no real interest in creating any incentive for teams to “tank”. However, let me point out ever so gently to the folks at the MLBPA and in MLB, the NBA draft lottery has hardly been an effective tool to prevent/minimize tanking. If my calculations are correct, the Philadelphia 76ers are now in the midst of their 4th consecutive year of tanking with no relief for their fans in sight.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald regarding a truly significant issue that MLB needs to deal with:
“Baseball finally is cracking down on domestic abuse. Now if they’d only get to flagrant cup-adjusting.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………