The first week or two of spring training is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The rest of spring training is … pretty boring to me.
The initial appearance by the team’s stars is exciting. It was great to hear from Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Ryan Howard this past week. But now what?
The first four weeks of March will be filled with nearly meaningless exhibition games and a plethora of nearly-as-meaningless features. Unless there’s an injury, however, there’s very little real news coming out of spring training.
It’s OK that there’s not a lot of news out of spring training. The Phillies’ roster is mostly a done deal. There is a spot or two in the bullpen and in the outfield that is up for grabs. Maybe there’s a battle to be the fifth starter in the rotation. That’s not enough for six weeks of news.
But there are 1,000 media members – all right, it only seems as if there are 1,000 of them there – who have to justify their trips to Clearwater, Fla. So they crank out story after story, day after day.
Some of these stories are very interesting. Many of them are the same. There is almost too much coverage of spring training.
I realize some people eagerly anticipate the onslaught of spring training stories. My tolerance level is much lower. By the second week of March, I’ll be wishing for spring training to end and for the real games to begin.
BRAUN OVER (NO) BRAINS: Ron Opher is right on the mark with his criticism of Major League Baseball over the Ryan Braun case. The decision to uphold Braun’s appeal and overturn his 50-game suspension was the correct decision.
Even if you didn’t know the exact protocol, common sense should tell you it isn’t proper to take a player’s sample home for two days before sending it to the lab. If there is any realistic possibility the sample was vulnerable to tampering or wasn’t stored properly, the test result should be overturned.
Meanwhile, there is the larger issue of confidentiality. Braun’s case is hardly the first one in which the confidentiality promised when testing was instituted was violated. The compromising of confidentiality will make it more difficult to get players’ unions to agree to stricter testing in the future, and that might be the most damaging effect of the Ryan Braun case.
IN KNICK OF TIME: It’s incredible to me that people can find negative aspects to the Jeremy Lin story. I understand Sixers fans not being happy about anything good happening to the Knicks, but I don’t understand others who feel the urge to demean Lin.
Is Lin destined for the Hall of Fame? I doubt it. He might never be an all-star. But so what?
The story of a player who was hoping not to be cut finally getting an opportunity to play regularly, and more than making the most of that opportunity, is a tremendous story. When you add in the elements of his father immigrating to the United States and falling in love with basketball, Lin attending Harvard and the excitement his success has caused in the Asian community and beyond, Lin’s success is one of the most intriguing stories of the year.
ANNIVERSARY OF THE CENTURY: Friday marks the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors during a 169-147 victory over the Knicks in Hershey. Chamberlain made 36 of 63 shots from the field and 28 of 32 free throws, an astounding percentage (87.5%) for a notoriously bad free throw shooter.
Someone in the NBA’s scheduling office should be congratulated for having the Golden State Warriors visit Philadelphia on the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain’s remarkable achievement. All fans in attendance Friday will receive a 2” x 2” section of the court on which Chamberlain played that night.
STAR GAZERS: This is all-star weekend. Not only does the NBA All-Star Game take place Sunday in Orlando, but the National Lacrosse League All-Star Game takes place Saturday in Buffalo.
I can’t decide which event I care less about.
0-FOR-EDMONTON: The Flyers and Wings lost in Edmonton on back-to-back nights (Thursday and Friday). It’s too bad for the Wings that the Flyers were in the midst of a road trip and weren’t going to or from Philadelphia. They could have hitched a ride and saved money on airfare.
And what kind of league (NLL) schedules games for the night before its all-star game? The Wings played in Edmonton on Friday night, then some of them traveled to Buffalo for the all-star game the next night.
QB QUESTIONS: The Eagles signed Trent Edwards to be a backup to Michael Vick next season. If Edwards is so good, however, then why didn’t anyone sign him after the Raiders cut him during their training camp last season?
As often as Vick gets injured, I wouldn’t be comfortable going into next season with Edwards and Mike Kafka as his backups. At least they’re not paying Edwards $4 million, which is what they wasted on Vince “Dream Team” Young last season.
TRACK STARS: I know some people won’t believe this, but, aside from the Flyers game in Calgary on Saturday night, the professional sporting event I’m looking forward to the most this weekend is the Daytona 500. There might not be a better “opening day” in sports than the Daytona 500.
MADNESS APPROACHING: Speaking of sporting events I enjoy, Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is two weeks away. The first week of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, from Selection Sunday through the end of the second round, is one of my favorite weeks of the year.
As is the case with the NASCAR season and the Daytona 500, the beginning of the NCAA Tournament is better than the middle or the end.
Keep your eyes open for the Second Annul PhillyPhanatics.com NCAA Tournament pool! Details coming soon.
RADIO PLUG: While I’m promoting upcoming events related to this site, let me promote PhillyPhanatics.com’s weekly Internet Blog Talk Radio show. The show, which airs live from 6:30-7 p.m. on Sunday, feels as if it goes by in a flash. Check out our archives of past shows and join the discussion on a future show by calling 1-805-727-7014.
HEEL TACTIC: An editor’s job is to make his or her writers look good. Like a good referee, a good editor generally goes unnoticed by the general public. We’re not supposed to toot our own horns.
Given the grief I’ve taken from Achilles Heel, however, I’m going to strike back. Heel has occasionally fired criticism in my direction – and I’ve left it in his Heel Turns columns. So I’m going to point out that he forgot to include John Cena’s role as the honorary starter for Sunday’s Daytona 500 in this week’s Heel Turns. Fortunately, his editor (me) inserted the information into his column. You’re welcome.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 23 years, started writing about NASCAR seven or eight years ago while composing a weekly NASCAR note for the now-defunct Myerstown Herald.