Spring Training begins tomorrow, and we all know what that means: it means sun, warm weather, and baseball! Except…not really.
When you get down to it, Spring Training is just a month-and-change long festival of bitter-sweetness. It certainly evokes some powerful, positive emotions, but for every positive thought that Spring Training brings, a negative thought is presented to cancel it out, as if Mr. Applegate himself is whispering in your ear:
Hey! It’s Spring!…not for a month…
The Mets are playing baseball again!…not at Citi Field…
Matt Harvey looks great!…But Spring numbers don’t mean anything…
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of appreciation of Spring Training, there’s one thing no one can deny, or at least, no one should deny: it’s a ton of fun! The Grinch himself cannot deny the squirm of happiness, involuntary or not, that accompanies those first pictures of the sun rising in Port St. Lucie, and the players, all sporting grotesquely ugly beards for some reason, engaging in all manner of training-related activities.
To be sure, much of the exponentially overblown media coverage is just that: overblown, as well as, in the long run, supremely annoying. When Spring Training starts, the few photos a day that come out of players jogging, chatting, laughing, etc. are enough, but not too much, to make any fan happy. By the end of Spring Training, however, the endless projections, analyses, etc. take a toll on even the most anticipatory. In the early days of Spring Training, we look forward to getting to see what our favorite players are up to: by the end, it’s often turned into a completely meaningless set of numbers for SNY’s hired hands to discuss to no end. (“I’m Jim Duquette. Coming up on Mets Hot Stove, Wilmer Flores’ Spring Training ultimate zone rating makes him defensively elite among National League Shortstops. Can he sustain it? We’ll discuss it after the break. Also, how have Terry Collins’ team cooking classes improved clubhouse chemistry? We’ll be right back.”)
Strangely, this, although on the surface it seems nothing but a denunciation of Spring Training as a meaningless waste of time, actually goes to prove my central point, which, if you’ve forgotten, involves how great Spring Training is: despite all the stupidity inherent, we all watch this stuff. Spring Training is not meaningless. The offseason is meaningless. The offseason is endless, unmoving, and, above all, cold. Spring Training spoils us, because it makes us forget about that endless stew of nothingness: the offseason. We have no point of comparison once Spring Training starts: we compare it only to itself, and that’s the wrong comparison to make. No, Spring Training, despite being, in large part, nothingness, is still Baseball, and if you don’t think that’s an improvement over the offseason, all hope for you is lost.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, much like Spring Training, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe the point is to help those who are just desperate for regular season baseball to get through the 50-some-odd days until the regular season begins in Washington. If that’s the point, then take heart: I can indeed assure you that whatever time is left until the season begins will pass in the blink of an eye, and we’ll look back on it with wistful longing during the long, long winter of 2015-16. On the other hand, if the point is to expound on the issue of Spring Training, and whether it’s worth anything, consider the point resolved: Spring Training, if nothing else, has to be worth something, because, again if nothing else, which is itself debatable, it provides a merciful end to the monotonous, frigid, grey-tinged skies and minds of the offseason. And finally, if the point is just to reminisce on the fact that the season will soon begin, and all this mind-numbing prattle will be out of the way, then here you are: before you know it, none of us will remember the arguments they had about whether Spring Training was worth anything, because we’ll be too busy watching Michael Cuddyer hit a walk-off home run against the Braves to sweep the series for the Mets. Or something like that, at least.
So, at its most condensed version, the point, or points, boils down to this: Spring Training is here (as of tomorrow, anyway), and while you don’t have to exhaustively keep up with the latest news from Friday night bowling, or analyze the winners of the annual alligator fishing competition, Spring Training baseball – not regular season baseball, but certainly the next best thing – is right there for your enjoyment, and if you don’t want to grab it by the nose and enjoy it until there’s no fun left to be had, no one can force you, but we’d sure love to see it. We Mets fans like people – most people, at least – to be happy, and Spring Training, while certainly not any bastion of perfection in sports and entertainment, is still baseball, and it’s still there for the enjoying.
So get out there, ignore the mind-numbing and pointless analysis, soak in the shots of the Florida Spring sun, and take it all in. Spring Training is here, and while it’s not regular season baseball, until April 6th at approximately 1:00 p.m., it’s the best thing we’ve got.