As the next nine days unfold I’ll be talking a lot about the differences between Florida and Arizona spring trainings. But for now I’ll give you a preliminary observation: the fact that all of the Arizona spring training complexes are located in the same major city is convenient as all hell, but also a bit of a drag. At least so far. Let me explain.
The drag: last year when I made it to my first stop — Port St. Lucie — the whole area seemed kind of Mets crazy. The hotel clerks were wearing Mets jerseys. The clerk at the liquor store (I was there for research purposes) was telling me which players had been in that evening. There was a vibe, man — apparent within the first six hours of landing — that we were all there for a singular purpose and that there was nothing going on but baseball.
Within six hours of landing in Phoenix and I merely felt like I was in a big city. The Angels complex is right outside my hotel door, but there aren’t Angels fans milling about my mountain bunker. The only surprise I received at the liquor store — again, conducting research — was that there were still Christmas gift packs of my house pour for sale (Arizona State University area, consider yourself to be on notice).
Maybe this is a silly observation given that I haven’t been to any parks yet — and maybe it’s more about my excitement level last year as I embarked on my first spring training trip — but there is less of a buzz in the air. This is a big sprawling city going about its business. That’s cool and that may very well lead to many unexpected wonders over the next few days, but there is something fun and weird about places like Port St. Lucie and Viera and Bradenton. Their parks are old and far apart, but if you’re making the trip there at this time of year, you’re doing it for only one purpose and everyone’s pretty giddy about it.
Maybe I’ll find some giddy later this morning. I’ll be sure to let you know.
Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.
That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:
It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.