The return of spring training games is supposed to be some sign of hope. While it doesn’t signal the beginning of spring, it at least signals that spring will get here at some point. The sight of baseball being played in sunshine and people having cold beers on a warm day generally lets you know that it could be OK again. Especially after last season didn’t start until the end of July, and we were denied the usual rhythm of a baseball season, and especially now in the second year of the pandemic, that kind of glimpse of normality is always welcome.
Even if it’s tempered a bit.
Part of baseball’s problem is that the beginning of spring training games doesn’t signal the beginning of so many teams’ journey to...well, anything. How many fandoms actually have something to look forward to when the season actually kicks off? Seven? Eight? And some like Dodgers or Yankees fans can pretty much count on a playoff berth, so what does the regular season really mean to them? You’re not turning in to see who’ll fill out the bottom of the roster or what prospect might make it to the bigs in May or June if you don’t think the team really cares or has a chance.
We can shelve that discussion for another time. Because the one thing that all baseball fans can agree on is that the time for automatic strike zones has come. And while umpires would argue it’s spring training for them, too, we’ve seen shit like this from Angel Hernandez far too often in June or July to think he’s just practicing:
It usually takes an alignment of the planets for me to agree with anything that goes on during a Cardinals broadcast, but here we find an accord.
It’s time to do away with this. Especially with the kind of stuff pitchers throw now, umpires are simply guessing, and sometimes badly, at what is and what isn’t a strike. How could they be doing anything else?
If we can’t have automated strike zones, and it’s getting more and more frustrating that we don’t, perhaps this kind of system introduced in the KBO last year would help. Umpires would actually be held responsible for their performance. Which has been an unheard of concept among MLB umps for pretty much forever. Of course, the umpires union would shit a chicken before allowing something like this.
With MLB taking control of the minor leagues by sheer force, perhaps one of the minuscule benefits could be MLB experimenting with things more in those leagues. Automated strike zones should be first on the list. We don’t need another six months of Angel Hernandez.
I’m not exactly sure why it’s a little more enjoyable to laugh at the Clippers than everyone else. I mean, it’s what we’re used to. There’s a comfort there. And a game that’s right on the cusp of the All-Star break, and on the road, is probably not when a team is going to be its most focused.
Still, a game against the Bucks on Sunday afternoon on ABC feels like a bigger to-do than other games. And once again the Clippers threw up all over themselves. While Giannis was going for 17 in the 4th quarter to lead Milwaukee to a 105-100 win, both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined to go 3-for-15 in that final quarter as the Clippers once again treated it like an ear flushing.
It seems that George is intent on proving that he’s just not that guy, while Leonard holds a third team hostage about what he’ll do with his contract being up after the season (at least the first two got a championship out of it). People forget that Leonard pulled his own “Harden” on the Spurs, and the Raptors were lucky enough to have a coach and a roster that was prepared to go full-bore for one season and then deal with it later. The Clip Show has been walking on eggshells since Leonard arrived, and this isn’t the last 4th quarter faceplant we’ll see from them either.