During one spring training with the Yankees about a decade ago, in the midst of the Paul O'Neill-Tino Martinez dynasty years, the team began losing one exhibition game after another, until a nice respectable losing streak developed. George Steinbrenner began to go a little nuts and took out his angst on his front-office staff, which was forced to stay until late one evening for a little wrath. The next day, the beat writers covering the team (including myself) were there early in a pack, in case some retribution was carried out.
Bernie Williams walked by and asked us why we had all gathered with such a purpose, and it was explained to him: George has been going a little nuts because of the losing streak. Bernie replied, in so many words: We've been losing? What's the losing streak up to?
He had no idea. For some, spring training results don't matter. For others, they do. With that in mind, let's consider the current spring:
Spring training results matter for: The Diamondbacks
Arizona is 5-16 this spring, and in most years, the staff members wouldn't care. But the Diamondbacks are coming off a terrible year in which their general manager (Josh Byrnes) and manager (A.J. Hinch) were fired, and manager Kirk Gibson has been drilling the team relentlessly. For example, the team has practiced pickoff moves over and over, in an effort to slow opponents on the bases. Only eight other teams allowed as many steals as Arizona last year (although interestingly, three of the eight made the playoffs, including both league champions), and Gibson is going to try to make damn sure that this sort of thing doesn't happen again.
So for a manager and new GM Kevin Towers, the spring losses have started to hit a nerve. Remember, Gibson will always be remembered in Dodger lore for a spring training incident right after he signed with the team. Jesse Orosco put shoe black on the lining of Gibson's cap, and Gibson was furious, reportedly questioning how serious the team was about preparation.
For the record: Gibson doesn't like the word "frustrated" attached to him this spring, as Nick Piecoro writes.
Spring training results don't matter for: A lot of veteran pitchers
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