Editorial: Many people have complained about the futility of Spring Training over the years. “It doesn’t matter,” they say, or “It’s too long! What a waste of time!” But the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates are living proof of the importance of Spring Training.
The Pittsburgh Pirates opened their 2017 Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday with split-squad match-ups against the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, thus beginning the month or so of Spring Training. Spring Training can be a great time for players to get in shape after loose off-seasons, hone their skills or get in the correct mindset before the start of the new season.
Useless Spring? Nah.
Many of the circuit’s critics over the years have pointed out the uselessness of Spring Training games. They don’t count, they’ll say. Let’s just hurry up and get to the real baseball, right?
In order to see the necessities of Spring Training, one must delve deeper than the wins and the losses, something most average sports fans usually have no interest in doing. The Pittsburgh Pirates NEED 2017’s Spring Training more than almost anybody, for a few reasons.
First of all, what the hell happened last season?
Good question. The truth is that I don’t really know. And I’m not sure most of the Buccos do either. Hopes and expectations skyrocketed after Spring Training in 2016. Andrew McCutchen was going to be more at home in the lineup after Clint Hurdle moved him to the 2-hole (hahaha yeah right). New signing John Jaso was going to hit leadoff, and it looked like he was going to be an on-base percentage champion.
Obviously, neither of those things ever came to fruition. And the way the season turned out was pretty shocking. The Pirates got flat-out embarrassed by the eventual World Series champ Chicago Cubs throughout the last few months of the season, and morale was understandably visibly low.
2017’s Spring Training will be a good time for the Pirates to get their minds right going into the season. Nothing less than 100 percent focus and concentration will see the Pirates to success, so a clear head will be good for them.
Are we sure the outfield is going to work?
Nope. Personally, I’m pretty confident. Starling Marte might as well have been placed into the outfield directly from God’s hands, so I’m not worried about him. Gregory Polanco will have to learn how to play that horrible corner in foul territory down the third base line at PNC Park, but he should adapt rather quickly. While we’re on the subject of Gregory Polanco, he has got some gain this off-season! He used to look like a wet noodle honestly. However, this year he has shown up to Spring Training cut like Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is exciting!
Cutch’s Transition to Right
Now, it seems as though Andrew McCutchen is the player to be most worried about in terms of his transition into the 2017 season. The Clemente Wall can be like a game of Plinko if a fly ball hits it the wrong way. Cutch will have to be trained in the ways of handling balls off of the wall in a way he’s never really had to before. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have as much trouble picking the ball up off the ground as Polanco does.
This Spring Training could be big for Cutch mentally as well. If you read his article in The Players’ Tribune, you know how privy he was to all the trade rumors circling around him like hungry sharks over the offseason. I don’t know about you, but that would discourage me, and might even affect me from performing my job to the best of my abilities. Cutch can use this time to get his mind right before going into what could be (hopefully) a triumphant return to “Baddest-Dude-in-the-League” status in 2017.
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No clue. I don’t think Clint Hurdle does either. But that’s okay! That’s the point of Spring Training.
The first four members of the rotation are basically set in stone: Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Chad Kuhl. But who’s the fifth starter? There are plenty of candidates: Tyler Glasnow, Drew Hutchison, Nick Kingham, Steven Brault or, hell, maybe even Jose Quintana. (Personally, I vote for Glasnow.)
Locking up Nova was huge for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, as they look up and see a pretty solid front end of a pitching staff, they still have one hole to fill. Brault, Glasnow, Hutchison and Kingham have all pitched already this spring, with Hutchison being the only one to give up a run. It appears we may have a classic logjam for the fifth spot, but that’s a good problem to have. Spring Training allows the Pirates to find the best fit.
So, what now?
We wait. I know, it sucks. Baseball will be here soon enough. But for now, we just have to let Spring Training run its course. It’s necessary.