Let’s start with some qualifiers. I’m sure there are exceptions, but generally speaking, most of the time, by and large (OK, I’m running out of qualifiers, so I’ll get to the point): Baseball teams know who their opening-day pitcher is going to be, who’s in their starting rotation, what their lineup is going to look like and who’s going to be on their roster, before spring training ever begins.
Going into spring training, teams have a plan, but they have to let that plan play out.
What if the guy you thought was going to be your opening-day pitcher gets hurt? Or comes into camp overweight? Or gets a highly inconvenient and poorly-timed DUI?
So even though they have a very good idea of what the team will look like going into the regular season, it’s better for teams to wait as long as possible to make any announcement.
And every once in a while a player will perform so well or poorly during spring training that teams will change their plans. For instance: Raul Mondesi played well enough this spring that he changed the picture at second base for the Royals. But only because the Royals weren’t settled on what they wanted to do at that position.
Peter O’Brien hit seven home runs this spring, but the Royals were already set in the outfield: Realistically, O’Brien never had a great chance of making the team no matter what he did in the spring.
And it works the same way in reverse: Brandon Moss was going to make the team even if he went 0-for-March.
Teams are never going to say that. Why discourage a young player? And a battle for positions creates interest, and interest translates into ticket sales. So when you hear a player is having a torrid spring and is making a strong bid to make the team, take it with a grain of salt.
It might be true, but remember — there’s a lot less drama in spring training than you might think.
Why a lot of offseason moves can be a bad sign
A team will make a lot of offseason moves and some fans and media members will get very excited: Just look at what the (insert team name here) have done to improve themselves!
But even if a team signs a bunch of All-Stars, a lot of offseason moves can be a bad sign.
Ask yourself two questions:
1) Why did the team need to make so many moves and …
2) Why were those players available?
Teams need to make a lot of moves because they weren’t very good the previous season, or, if they were good, they’re probably losing some players.
And if a player is available, it’s probably because he’s expensive or he’s worn out his welcome with his previous team.
You can sign a bunch of All-Stars, but you still don’t know how they’ll play together. Will they gel and become a team, or will the All-Stars play to protect their own numbers?
If you like the general manager aspects of the game, and a lot of fans do (I understand fantasy baseball is catching on), player acquisition can be exciting. But a lot of offseason moves might be a bad sign.