A word about spring training games

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spring training stretch.jpgAs people who’ve been reading my stuff for a while know, I have this little habit of waking up really early in the morning during the baseball season, reading all of the box scores and game stories and riffing on the previous night’s games in a little feature called “And That Happened.” It’s fun. People seem to like it. Most of all, I like it, because I have a ball writing it and the process of doing it every day is the single most important part of me keeping plugged in to what’s going on in baseball.

But since I get asked this every March, let me make one thing clear now: there will be no “And That Happened” for the spring training games that began yesterday and start in earnest today. Yes, it’s baseball, but it’s a decidedly different beast than the game we know and love. Things happen in spring training like, say, a team benching all of its regulars at the last minute because it rained three hours earlier. Veterans don’t make road trips very often and play golf while their teammates sweat. Pitchers go two or three innings max until at least the end of the month. What happens in those games may be interesting, but the games as a whole are not meaningful. They’re certainly not the sort of thing that makes a guy want to dig down and analyze the heck out of a box score, ya know?

We’ll certainly be keeping you up to date on what happens in spring training games — see Matthew’s rundown of yesterday’s game, for example — but the first ATH will come on Monday, April 5th with a wrapup the previous night’s Yankees-Red Sox game.

And that’s just over a month away, my friends. 

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.