March 10, 2012; Lake Buena Vista FL, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) leaps over New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (not pictured) to catch an errant throw during a stolen base attempt in the first inning of the game at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The Most Wonderful (And Hypocritical) Time Of The Year

It is Spring Training. That means the return of baseball (almost) every day. This is good news for most baseball fans but there is one problem with that. Most people tend to take the results way too seriously.

The goal of these games is to get into game shape. In the early years of Spring Training it was merely to get into shape, but most athletes train year round and that part of it is not as necessary. Most fans don’t grasp the concept of playing not to win. They over analyze struggles, they over analyze losses. For Braves fans, well, there are a lot of losses and quite a bit of struggles so far this Spring.

But there are other fans who brush aside the struggles. They keep saying that it’s early. That the games mean nothing. Don’t even look at the statistics. It doesn’t matter, they say. These are also the type of fans that let struggles at the beginning of the season go as well. Why should a bad streak at the beginning of the season mean anything different than a streak in the middle or the end. If anything, last season made this hit home.

There is even a third type of fan. They look at players that are performing well and they are ecstatic. They think it’s a sign of things to come. I remember Gabe Gross breaking a record for most Spring home runs, and he never was able to duplicate that. I also remember a great Spring from Mike Morse when he was still with the Seattle Mariners. He turned that into a great season with the Washington Nationals a few years later. It can go both ways.

The fourth and final type of fan is the fan that looks at players’ successes and says, simply, it doesn’t matter. Most of the advanced statistics community is in this group. It’s not that they are pessimistic, it’s that they are realistic and a lot of statistics mean nothing due to a small sample size. These fans tend to scream loudest when a player who should not make a team makes it on the basis of a strong Spring, usually at the expense of a younger player who struggled a little more but who is the better player.

Why does this make it hypocritical? Because most fans are at least two types. Most fans are complete opposite when it comes to different players, and different results. A good player having a bad Spring? He’s just getting ready for the season! A surprise player having a great Spring? He’s incredible! The next Jose Bautista! Wow!

The reality is the truth is in between all of these. Things can happen to any player, whether it’s a new stance and getting used to it or a significant drop in velocity. The thing is, we don’t know because some players may be trying to improve their fourth or fifth pitch against top-calibre players. Some players are pitching their best stuff to minor league prospects years away from a spot in the Majors, if they ever make it.

So, yes the Braves are struggling. Yes, they are on pace to one of the worst Spring records in recent years but what does it all mean? Nobody has any idea. The best thing to do is to keep a look at the team that many think will be in the race for a Wild Card spot and keep it. Until teams start making cuts and pitchers start getting stretched out, these results mean even less than normal.

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