Spring training has just begun and yet many of us are already saying, "Wake me up on Opening Day." Fair enough. In the meantime, dig these pearls of Grapefruit League wisdom from the one-and-only Earl Weaver (from his wonderful book--co-written by Terry Pluto--Weaver on Strategy, essential reading for any serious baseball fan):
The Cliches of Spring
Another problem in spring camps is all those sportswriters with nothing much to write about. Every year it seemed I got asked the same questions, so I started giving my answers by the numbers. Here are my nine favorite answers.
1. The hitters are ahead of the pitchers. You use this one after your staff gets pounded for fourteen runs early in the spring. After all, maybe the hitters ARE ahead of the pitchers at this point. Who's to say which group develops faster?
2. The pitchers are ahead of the hitters. The opposite of number 1, so it should be used when you get shut out by three rookie pitchers nobody's ever heard of.
3. The Second-Time-Out theory. I'm not sure why it happens, but veteran pitchers often get hit in their second outing of the spring. When reporters asked me why, I had few answers. Instead, I'd just tell them it was just another case for the second-time-out theory.
4. The Loss In Daytona Beach theory. You can substitute any city, but this excuse is to be used when you get bombed on the road in the spring. So you lose to Montreal, 20-3, on March 22 in Daytona Beach. Who cares?
5. That's why they call 'em exhibition games. The Orioles often had records like 12-15 in the spring because I spent my time looking at players rather than worrying about winning. Most managers do the same. They call them "exhibition games" because they don't count.
6. The Lee May syndrome. This can be used for any veteran hitter who's having a lousy spring. Lee May couldn't hit his weight for me in the spring, but the man did the job once the season began. The writers would get nervous about Lee's springs, but I didn't worry. Guys who hit in the past and haven't gotten injured or too old are a great bet to hit again, regardless of their batting averages in Florida.
7. Yes, Palmer will pitch the opener. Every spring it seemed that Jim Palmer had some sort of injury--elbow, back, ulna nerve, etc.--and people would wonder if Jim would be able to pitch the opener. There were millions of stories speculating about Palmer's condition. Usually Jim was ready when the bell ran. I never worried about it unless Jim came up to me right before the opener and said there wa a problem.
8. Can't you see what we're doing out there? A lot of young writers had a million questions about what was happening in the spring. They didn't seem to understand that you had to do certain drills to get ready for the season. Rather than explain it all every day, it often was easier to pose this question. After all, they should have been smart enough to see what we were doing.
9. Phenom? What phenom? Every spring, the writers are looking for a phenom, a young player they can build up and go crazy about in their stories. I understand that they have to write something, but they've gotten carried away sometimes. I remember one rookie baseball writer who had Mark Corey ready for the Hall of Fame just because he hit the ball hard a couple of times in an intersquad game. Patience! It's a long way from the Grapefruit League.
Remember, Weaver's First Law:
No one's going to give a dam in July if you lost a game in March.