Friday, March 4, 2011

A few helpful thoughts to guide you through spring training

I've found in my two-plus decades of baseball fandom that the key to spring training coverage is to arm yourself with a ruthless filter.

The quicker you understand that 70 percent of news that comes out of camp is utter crap, the better off you'll be.

This isn't meant to be a dig on the beat writers on the scene — they're doing their job properly by and large, reporting on the minutiae of the day-to-day activities of each camp.

But ultimately, it is minutiae that they're reporting on. Much of it won't matter even a little bit by the time the Yankees open their season against the Tigers on March 31.

For example, this is the second straight camp we've read copy about Phil Hughes and the elusive changeup he's been attempting to perfect the way Walter White engineers a clear batch of crystal meth in Breaking Bad.

If you recall last spring, much was made about Hughes learning the same offspeed pitch, and he said at the time that he believed it would take his game to the next level. Hughes went on to win 18 games last season, but it'd be surprising if he threw that many changeups over six months.

Another example: One of the big stories in camp so far has been Larry Rothschild's work with A.J. Burnett, as the pitching coach attempts to wipe away the bad habits that undercut the right-hander's doomed 2010 campaign.

This makes for acceptable blog and newspaper material, allowing the beat guys to file their copy then hit up the approximate 42,000 "gentleman" clubs that line the streets of Tampa. But as anyone that's followed Burnett's career knows, the pitcher's struggles have always been much more a mental issue than where his front foot lands during his delivery.

Or as's Jon Heyman put it on Twitter yesterday: "dont want to hear about aj burnetts new pitching coach or new motion. his issues are all above the neck."

The stories I pay more attention to lie in the realm of the concrete. Francisco Cervelli fouled a ball off the arch of his foot on Wednesday — watching it live, it reminded me of poor Jimmy Caan in Misery (he Kathy Bates'd himself!) — and the team is awaiting a clearer report on his MRI. Now that's something I want to read more about.

It's all about your fan filter, my friends. Don't worry about the daily updates about Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter's batting cage work, do pay attention to Freddy Garcia's spring starts and Jesus Montero's push for the backup catcher job. Try not to get too caught up in Mark Prior's quest to be the mop-up man, instead follow prospect Dellin Betances' progress through the month or CC Sabathia's outings as he comes back from knee surgery.

Know where to look for your spring training news, and you'll leave brain hard drive space open for more important things, like coming up with a sweet fantasy team name that your friends will envy and your bosses will respect.

Just do yourself a favor and steer clear of The Winners, Tiger Blood, The Warlocks, or any other Charlie Sheen-related moniker. Be an original. Have some dignity, will you?

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.


Adam Rank said...

I'll see your Phil Hughes offspeed pitch, and raise you an Ervin Santana split-finger fastball.

Dan Hanzus said...

We can't create a really crappy pitcher who throws all the pitches good pitchers try to learn but can't. He would suck, but would really have an extensive arsenal.