Directing attention elsewhere momentarily, we find the Mavs sitting at 27–36, while the Stars are 27–29–10. But define their seasons strictly by win-loss numbers and you’d be missing the point in terms of which team has been an adrenalizing surprise, and which has disappointed.
If you focus on the Rangers’ 2–9–1 Cactus League mark, you’d not only miss the point — you’d misunderstand that there’s even a point to be missed.
Remember, if you need a reason to stave off that urge to delete this email just yet, that the Cubs went 11–19–2 last spring, while Arizona went 24–8.
Know that Texas put up a 13–16 spring training record in 2011, coming off its first World Series, which followed an American League- and Cactus League-worst 10–19 mark in camp in 2010.
Next to nothing that shows up in the line score, or the exhibition “standings,” matters. Hitters are working on things, pitchers are working on things, the Rangers’ 11 batters who have had the most plate appearances include one likely regular (Mike Napoli), the club’s 15 pitchers who have faced the most batters include just two who are locks to make the club (Yu Darvish and Martin Perez), Elvis Andrus and Cole Hamels have yet to appear in a game that figured into that droopy win-loss mark, and Adrian Beltre has seen 20 pitches this spring, fewer than Steven Lerud and fewer than Jason Martinson and less than a third of the number Doug Bernier has stood in to face.
Opening Day is in 26 days. That’s a long time.
What we should want is for the players, and the team, to hit stride those last few days in Surprise. Not now.
If hitting stride now even meant anything, that is, given that clubs are focused, at least in early March, on players competing for big league roles or for opportunities to make an impression that might lead to a top-level conversation in May, or July. To be fair, if Jose Leclerc gets in a groove with his location, or if Ronald Guzman puts the team on his back for a couple days, that could be a really good thing in the long term, but it isn’t going to help the Rangers set any sort of tone in the West once the 2017 season begins.
The players who will have the most impact on the wins and losses when the games count are playing sparingly right now, if at all, more or less working in the afternoons in the stadium, as they are in the mornings on the back fields, toward finding a rhythm to take into the season.
Zealously taking ground balls, seeing pitches, finding release points, getting bodies in game shape, building stamina. Methodically. Gradually. Without hype, or a scoreboard.
Keep watching and keep listening, because you and I need to round into game shape ourselves. But don’t fret the finals.
Instead, pay attention to Drew Robinson’s power and patience and versatility and to what Rule 5 pick Mike Hauschild is doing and to Joey Gallo’s mounting walk total and to Netherlands center fielder Jurickson Profar, who homered in his club’s Game One win over South Korea and drew a walk-off walk against Chinese Taipei the following day.
Really, focusing on individual results at all isn’t terribly useful either, but in the case of players like Robinson and Hauschild and Gallo and Profar who have something to prove and to earn this month, there’s more meaning in there than in Perez’s ERA or Shin-Soo Choo’s slash line.
Or in a win-loss mark that includes two wins in a week and a half.
Concentrating on the box score is for the regular season. March is all about enjoying the sounds and embracing the buzz and, if you like, celebrating some World Baseball Classic heroics, appreciating the lack of medical updates, and reacquainting yourself with Adrian’s joy, the name on the front of Napoli’s jersey, and Darvish’s delivery, as majestic and singular as 19 years of of stepbacks and fades and skydiving threes that belong, in a way, to us.
Kick-ass things that don’t show up in any exhibition standings.
Seems, perhaps, that it’s not the best idea to write in acrostic, granted, but this morning I feel it was something I had to do — and it’s too early, anyway, to expect anything approaching mid-season form, whether you’re a hitter or a pitcher or an occasional baseball blogger.