Baumann: The fleeting allure of the spring training prospect breakout

From SABR member Michael J. Baumann at on March 25, 2015:

Watching spring training is bad for you. It will seduce you with glimpses of warm weather and men being paid to play baseball, deluding you just enough that you think you’re watching the genuine article instead of glorified practice in Florida or Arizona, where no sane human would want to live. If you’ve got any sense, you’ll avoid it and ground yourself in the knowledge that, even though it’s the last full week of March and the snow is still coming down like volcanic ash in a disaster movie, summer will come soon. You’ll curl up on your sofa and binge on college baseball, or even other sports, the way some people pop sunflower seeds when they’re trying to quit smoking — it’s so not the real thing, but it’ll keep your brain and mouth occupied, and you know that going back to spring training will kill you.

Spring training will still call to you, of course, reminding you of that glorious moment when a pre-neckbeard Clayton Kershaw, all of 19 years old, first ripped off Public Enemy No. 1. That pitch literally buckled the knees of Sean Casey, who was not only a grown-up, but also a career .301 hitter who ought not to have had his knees buckled by this child. It sent Vin Scully, America’s Ironic Vintage Record Player, into the kind of laughter you wouldn’t expect from someone who’d covered Koufax in 1966, Drysdale in 1968, Hershiser in 1988, and Gagne in 2003. You’ll look back on that great spring training memory and consider how it presaged a career that might end up being the greatest ever for a Dodgers pitcher. “We learned something from that one spring training moment,” you’ll tell yourself. “By not watching, I’m missing the opportunity to draw conclusions about other prospects.”

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Originally published: March 25, 2015. Last Updated: March 25, 2015.