I haven't written anything about Spring Training so far, and I have to admit, I've felt a little bit disconnected from the whole Grapefruit League scene this off-season. As the amazing Emma Span pointed out at Bronx Banter today, Spring exhibition baseball is only just good enough to take the edge off your baseball addiction--methadone to the season's black tar heroin. This off-season, the winter leagues kept my baseball jones from getting too powerful, so I have had a hard time getting all that excited about exhibitions. The few innings I've seen here or there have been nice--I've missed the Yankees, and it's good to see them--but I'm saving my energy for the April to October grind.
It doesn't help that the signal-to-noise ratio down in Tampa has been, perhaps, at a historic low. There aren't that many interesting positional battles. There aren't many new acquisitions, for us to wonder how they'll fit in. The pitching staff whiz kids are here, but that story already got much of its play last August, September, and October. The local media can't seem to decide if Andy Pettitte's a louse for using HGH or a hero for ratting out Roger Clemens--they'll have to wait to see how he pitches during the season to decide how to treat him. It's made for a lot of unengaging coverage.
The meme this Spring seems to be about the Yanks losing that classy sheen they had under Joe Torre. Over the last two weeks, a home plate collision, a spiking, and a halfway decent brawl were decried as the end of civilization in Tampa. This week, there have already been two articles worrying about the Yanks' "slide into crassness" with Larry Brooks in the Post complaining about Joe Girardi allowing a pending-trial Jim Leyritz into the clubhouse; and Richard Justice licking his chops at the prospect of a return to the Bronx Zoo, with Hank Steinbrenner and Girardi playing the George/Billy Martin roles (hat tips to BTF for both links).
(An aside: This is one of those I don't understand--even if he's writing for the Sporting News, does anyone consider Richard Justice a national columnist? Why the heck should a Houston/National League guy be excited about the prospect of Hank Steinbrenner turning into his dad? Even more important, why should anyone care if he's excited? I guess that's the price of being the Yankees: everyone's all up in your business, even if they're in the NL Central.)
Mind you, Justice admits that it's not the Bronx Zoo yet, and that Cashman is still running the joint in the "boring/classy" way, but that doesn't stop him from breathlessly proclaiming that "You can't make up the stuff that's happened to the Yankees in the past six months."
I guess Justice doesn't have much of an imagination. What happened in the last six months? Losing in the ALDS? That happened in 2006 and 2005; it's old hat. Joe Torre walking away rather than taking an insulting contract offer? Torre came to the Yanks when exactly that happened with Buck Showalter after the 1995 season. The Yanks not landing the big trade for a franchise pitcher? That was Curt Schilling back in 2003. Heck, it was Randy Johnson for half his career--and just look at how happy he made us when he finally got here. Nope, can't make any of that stuff up.
We're a week away from baseball's false start--the pair of Boston/Oakland games in Japan-- two Sundays away from ESPN's Opening Night, and just shy of two weeks away from the real deal, with the Yanks hosting the Blue Jays on Yankee Stadium's final Opening Day. One way or another--send the cathedral out on a winning or losing note--it figures to be a bittersweet season. And I can't wait for it to start.