National / Sports / March 4, 2009

Rites of Spring training

Every February, as pitchers and catchers matriculate into their respective spring training facilities, I am duped. Sadly, I am not suckered into believing in my favorite team, the Chicago White Sox, as I am the eternal baseball pessimist (the season tends to go a lot smoother if I just assume the Twins will go 162-0). Rather, I am deluded into a state of unbridled excitement over six weeks of meaningless baseball and Mad Lib-esque sports journalism.

No matter the organization, player, executive, or news outlet, the stories are the same: Player A lost 15 pounds in the offseason and is in the best shape of his life; Player D ate nothing but tilapia for four months and began training with the third base coach in Boca Raton; Player Z is excited to be in a winning atmosphere despite his auxiliary role with the ballclub; you get the idea.

Despite this redundant and uninteresting formula, I still wake up each morning and read every baseball website or blog, salivating over photos of middle infielders taking grounders or outfielders acquainting themselves with their flip-down sunglasses. Whether it is player A, D, or Z, I’m still excited by the monotony of their offseason progress. Unfortunately, this only applies for the first two weeks.

Typically, the first televised game takes place around this time. For this, I am similarly ecstatic. Despite my endless hatred for Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson, he gives me chills each spring with his customary introduction to the first White Sox telecast. After a quick summary of offseason activity, the first pitch is thrown, and I am finally at peace. Although the line-up is typically piecework (Wilson Betemit—yes, the Wilson Betemit—batted fifth on Sunday), I’m excited to see the mix of major and minor league players.

Customarily, my satisfaction lasts until the third or fourth inning. At this point, I grow tired of watching Michael Restovich disobey the will of God by trying to be a Major League Baseball player and I change the channel. When the fifth inning finally rolls around, I’m usually entranced by another network’s more intriguing offerings—perhaps an old episode of Smart Guy or an edited-for-television Charlie Sheen movie.

Inevitably, I turn back in time to see the gut-wrenching finish to the ninth inning. Around this time, pessimism prevails, and I realize the White Sox are pretty terrible. Sure, they won the division last year and won a World Series only four seasons ago, but they are horribly horrid this season. Admittedly, I’d think that even if the Twins were sporting the exhumed corpse of Kirby Puckett at all nine positions.

This season, I think my pessimism is defensible rather than annoying. Hear me out. The White Sox are leaving three to four positions in the starting line-up and rotation to a “spring competition.” Rather than acquire a major league quality center fielder, Kenny Williams and friends seem to believe that a month’s worth of batting practice in Arizona will make Brian Anderson or Jerry Owens legitimate ballplayers.

Sure, he’s got a World Series title to his name and I’m a mediocre liberal arts student, but I can still use the interwebs sufficiently enough to determine that relying on players that aren’t likely to post a .650 OPS won’t do much for a ballclub.

But, fear not; by Opening Day, my zeal for baseball will return. And while the MLB season is excruciatingly long, my hunger will not be satiated until the final out of the final game—even when the White Sox finish 0-162.

Kevin Morris

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