Scenes from Spring Training: It finally feels like baseball

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Maybe you don’t have to be at a ballpark on a 75 degree day in March in order for it to feel like baseball season, but it sure does help.  Because I gotta tell ya, I’m feeling baseball today.

My last actual working duty of the day happened a few minutes ago. I interviewed Torii Hunter for tonight’s NBC SportsTalk show.  You can check it out at 6PM on the NBC Sports Network. I won’t give it all away, but I can give you a tantalizing hint of the bombshells I got Hunter to drop: the Angels “just have to take care of [their] business” and it’s awful nice that key players aren’t injured this year like they were last year.  Just nuts, I realize.

Anyway, when I got done with Hunter I walked around the ballpark for a while before the first pitch.  Stuff I saw:

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Sorry. I just can’t resist the cliche equipment-bag-on-the-field-before-a-game photo. I take it every single time it presents itself.

On the other hand, I probably should resist pics like this:

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That was the second orange Marlins cap I saw in the space of about ten minutes. We all said they were ugly. We underestimated the number of dudes like this in the world.

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Ah, more traditional fans. All waiting for autographs. I walked in front of people like this along the entire first base line. Three times during my journey I was asked to pick up Sharpie markers people dripped on the field. I’m going to invent a little tether device and market it to autograph-seekers. Or else I’m just gonna stop giving the markers back and hoard them.

Meanwhile:

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The White Sox put their hands in the air. And they wave them as if they believe there are no repercussions.  Two White Sox were not stretching, though. Dayan Viciedo was being a nice guy:

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And Adam Dunn was throwing a baseball for some reason. As if that’s going to come up sometime this year or something. Whatevs, Adam.

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Oh, wait. He got the start at first base today. God, I love spring training.

The game started a few minutes ago. John Danks looks awful through one inning so far, and it’s 2-0 Angels.  Who I keep calling the Cardinals because they’re wearing red today and Albert Pujols plays for them.

Bear with me. It’s still spring training for me too.

Alex Bregman shows how easy it is to manufacture “controversy” in baseball

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In most sports it takes legitimate trash talk to create off-day “controversy.” In baseball, it takes the weakest sauce. We saw how weak that sauce was yesterday.

Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are going to face off against Nate Eovaldi and the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS tonight. It’s worth noting that earlier this season, they hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Eovaldi when he was pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yesterday, in an act which was likely somewhat inspired by self-motivation, somewhat inspired by getting in Eovaldi’s head and somewhat inspired by a simple interest in having fun, Bregman took the video of those back-to-back-to-back homers off of Eovaldi and posted it to his Instagram:

Of course, since this is baseball, where even farting off-key can be construed as “showing up” the opposition or somehow disrespecting the game, it became a thing. Or at least people tried to make it become a thing.

Indeed, it took them a bit to find someone who would help them make it a thing, because Eovaldi himself didn’t care about it a bit, nor did Astros manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Eventually, however, they hit pay dirt. Here’s Sox infielder Steve Pearce talking to WEEI.com:

“Wow. I don’t know why he would do that. We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.”

My guess is that almost no one on the planet, Steve Pearce included, would care about this in a vacuum or if they allowed themselves to think through it for more than a second. Baseball culture, though — and let’s be clear about it, baseball media culture — has conditioned most of its players and participants to think that stuff like this is supposed to be controversial, so it actually takes effort not to start dancing to this kind of tune on auto-pilot.

Kudos to Hinch, Cora and Eolvaldi for exerting that effort and not dancing to it. To the press that automatically sought out comment on this and Pearce who dutifully gave it: hey, I get it. It’s hard to resist one’s conditioning. Maybe you’ll be able to resist it next time.