Posted on 10 March 2012.
The Kansas City Royals started their Cactus League schedule on Sunday with a 6-1 win over their campus mate Texas Rangers. A win as a good way to start the exhibition season, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that having any type baseball broadcast over any medium was a cause for celebration. I’m also confident that by the second game on Monday afternoon I was not the only person trying to figure if any of the individual player performances in these games mean anything.
As much as I’d like to tell myself that a 4-3 record for the Royals at this point in spring training is a good omen. Baseball fan experience tells me it doesn’t mean a whole lot. They do not give out Cactus League Championship rings. They don’t hang Cactus League Championship Banners at Kauffman Stadium, and if they do print Cactus League Championship t-shirts no one should wear them. In fact, the phrase “Cactus League Champion” is so irrelevant that a Google search only brings up four returns, and one of those was from the Royals Review message board.
The Royals have won the Cactus League twice since I’ve been paying close enough attention to notice these things. In 2006 the Royals won the Cactus League and proceeded to lose 100 games during the season. Last year the Royals won the Cactus League and only won 71 games. While it’s good to not look terrible in spring training, winning a lot of games during spring training doesn’t mean that much.
Spring Training is about established major leaguers getting their work in, deciding some position battles, and fringe players catching on with an organization. I have some interest in these battles, but not a whole lot. Other than hoping prospects live up to their potential I’m more concerned that the Royals break camp healthy, and the young players continue their improvement. Only way to improve is to get reps in major league situations. As I fan I don’t have much involvement in that. Nor do I really have any favorites to make the team, just as long as the best players break camp.
Outside of position battles is there any meaning in spring training? Only baseball for baseball’s sake. It’s been a long winter and it’s nice to have any baseball. This is my first spring training with access to MLB Network, and the MLBatBat App on my phone. My access to baseball has never been better. Not only is fan access better, during March the inventory of baseball is greater than during the regular season. With split squad contests, there are 18 games on the schedule today. During the regular season there can only be 15. I guess spring training is a lot like spring break. Don’t look for meaning, just enjoy the experience.
Posted in Royals
Posted on 14 March 2011.
The Royals are a little over two weeks into their Cactus League Schedule. The prospects we’ve heard so much about have been making an impact. Lorenzo Cain is making diving catches. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have been abusing baseballs. Jeremy Jeffress is hitting 100 mph and wiffing people. Salvador Perez is gunning down would be base thieves. Mitch Maier is making a case that we should change his name March Maier, which would be awesome if he played college basketball.
There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Royals fan keeping track of the activity in the Phoenix Metro Area. But then, like waking up from your spring break hangover you realize none of these games mean anything. I defy any Royals fan to remember Eric Hosmer’s grand slam off some Cubs farm hand when the Cubs visit Kauffman Stadium to play real games in the middle of June.
I’m not a big statistics person. But the statistics people I have talked to tell me there are two sets of statistics that you can throw out: September statistics among non playoff teams, and spring training. There are plenty of reasons for this that I won’t get into here. But I want to share one of the most blatant examples concerning the Royals. In 2006, the Royals won the Cactus League and then proceeded to win 5 real games in April on their way to another 100 loss season. Somehow you knew things would not end well when your Opening Day starter was a rehabbed Scott Elarton.
Is it better that the Royals are winning games in Surprise instead of losing them. But is there anything we can take away from spring training performances? I think about the big picture and questions that will determine when the Royals will emerge from the basement. Is Luke Hochaver finally going to pitch like a first round draft pick who held out? Is Vin Mazzaro worth being part of the David DeJesus trade? Does Jeff Francis have anything after Tommy John surgery? Is the bullpen flying under the rest of baseball’s radar?
The Royals aren’t close enough with their award winning farm system to make a difference this spring. Sure there are a few questions like: Who will make up the bullpen and rotation? But the major questions can only be answered during the regular season. I know Royals Fans don’t want to hear this, but it’s almost like the Royals have been playing spring training games continuously since August of 2003.
Royals fans seeing the young prospects flash their brilliance in March might be the highlight of our season. But, there is one difference between now and 2006. When the Royals break camp later this month they will have the second youngest 40 Man Roster in the majors. Division rivals Cleveland Indians are the youngest. This is the first season I can remember that a Royals official glossed “youth movement” actually corresponds with youth on the field. Watching young players get better while losing will be more entertaining than watching scrapheap players get worse as they continue to lose.
As to the original question; is there anything we can take away from spring training 2010? Maybe confirmation that Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus aren’t just trying to sell subscriptions to Royals Fans when they say the farm system is the best in baseball. (There so many of us left) There really is talent coming, and it’s fun to watch and listen to. But I fear that the spring break from losing will end Opening Day. Many of the players creating the buzz will be off chasing tornadoes and roaming the Ozarks this April. But for now, borrow some sunscreen and enjoy some winning.
Posted in Royals