On February 15th, men report to Florida and Arizona, and the end of something is near--winter, time with the wife, bad basketball teams-- and guys dream about summer.
So, here we are at the end of that raw beginning, and as meaningless as it is, there are opportunities not only for dreams, but insight.
- When Delmon Young gets to first and stands next to Jerry White, he looks like Troy Maxson in Fences, that is to say, like a serious 6' 3" black statue to unmovable. He's changed something in his swing, is hungry and lean; I'm glad he's us.
- Gomez is getting his legs and upper body together. Still raw, he understands the need for OBP, but lets everyone know that if you come into his strike zone, or near it, there will be violence.
- Cuddyer = cannon arm. Don't make him do it.
- Punto. The whipping boy of small man's disease for years. This may be his time to show critics that staying positive and playing defense can trump a month of pop-outs. Maybe not though.
- Morneau = Stud. Without the cancer.
- Joe. We hardly knew ye, or even anything about what was going on this off-season. If this were New York, your life, down to the size of inflammation in your sacroilliac joint, would be splayed across whole newspaper pages, next to chic models wearing spring fashions.
- Span. Seeing him flail at bad pitches and let good ones float by, and wondering if he will be a one year wonder, a very sick image comes to mind: a black David Dellucci, without pop.
- Liriano. So much power, so little finesse. Can Anderson, or anyone, get his passion to win in line with his native ability? I still will drop everything to watch him pitch.
- Has anyone even seen Bobby Ayala pitch? Definition of a veteran. Five innings. No runs. Good to go.
- Slowey = Greg Maddux, without the fielding.
Sure, spring training means nothing.
But why, then, care about it at all?
Because getting on the field means showing what you got, if not statistically, at least in terms of your body, your interest, your desire. Another year, what do you bring?
The Twins got a lot this year. Young guys, on the way up, hungry to prove out and get dirty, even on carpet.
Most significantly, the Division is weak.
Chicago is old, struggling to find young position players.
Cleveland is hopelessly dependent on oft injured pitchers carrying them-- Hafner looks like a shell, Garko in right field?
Detroit is going young and mediocre, starters dropping like flies, Rogers, Bonderman, Willis, Robertson. When was the last time a team went anywhere after cutting a $14 million dollar superstar?
Kansas City may have the best bullpen in the American League, but they are KC -- how often will they have a lead?
Ignore stats, especially standings showing the Angels, Yankees and Boston, along with the Twins as having the best Spring records. None of that matters. We float free of sabermetricians describing what happened. Nothing really did.
But, men a year older look slightly different, feature new angles on excellence, work to change themselves into someone they always imagined, and bring these hopes forward into April. Only trained eyes understand how such small things aggregate over months, pan out or blow away, and come September, make a team prime to run the table.
After a lot of nothing this Spring, there are three teams clearly better than the Twins, and none I would rather root for, except maybe LAA, who possess just about everything a fan could dream of in the long season of winter.