It’s the endless debate every spring: Do these games matter? Frankly, there are arguments for either case, but at the end of the day, what matters is that baseball is back.
Don’t tell that to these two essayists, however! When we put out the question of whether or not the pre-season is watchable for our readers to decide, we never expected to have two entire responses, one for either side, delivered to The Good Phight HQ; one jammed through the mail slot until it was a crumpled, illegible mess, the other thrown through a window rubber-banded to a Ryan Howard garden gnome.
We’ve transcribed them for you here, so that the debate may rage on!
The games don’t matter
Of course they don’t matter. Do the Phillies think we don’t have anything better to do? That we’ve just been sitting around all winter asking each other, “Where’d the Phillies go?” There was a whole Olympics while they were gone, not to mention every other major sport season and the dethroning of the Phillies as the most recent Philadelphia sports champions. There are more enthralling things to watch than 20 guys slowly remembering how to throw a curveball.
Watching the Phillies play baseball right now is the same thing as glancing out the window and seeing a kid wearing a glove on his head playing catch with his exasperated parent. Would you pay for airfare, a hotel, and a seat in a minor league stadium to watch that? I wouldn’t watch it for free. That’s why I boarded up all my windows and only occasionally peer into the outside world through my mail slot, like a normal person.
Think about how many times you could burn the president with a scathing quote tweet or pursue your career as a freelance urban farm photographer in the three and a half hours it takes to watch a game in the Grapefruit League. The gig economy is calling, and you’re sitting there watching guys with absurdly high numbers who will be playing in another team’s farm system in four weeks kick the ball to each other. Way to hustle, No. 98! You’re the comeback story of the spring, for sure!
Oh, what’s that? The player you like adjusted their swing, based on that slow motion footage you watched of them in the batting cage? Wow, you’re really vindicating the team’s video intern. It’s not like the player’s going to go out there and, in the heat of the moment, forget everything he was trying to do in the cage and immediately start flailing at every pitch until he hyper extends both elbows, then tweet ambiguously about nothing stopping him and how he’ll be back before the season ends. Darn! Really thought he had it figured out this year!
Baseball is uniformed chaos, determined by the phases of the moon and misshapen flecks of dirt in the infield. You think any of these pre-season warm-ups are going to make a difference? Please; we all know how this going to go: That guy’s going to hit .250. That guy’s going to strike out 100 times instead of 90. That guy’s fastball will drop in velocity, that guy’s knees are going to implode, that guy is a Marlin waiting to happen, those guys are all good but will split time with those other guys, so they won’t look as good, that guy’s biggest contribution will be as a reaction .gif, and that guy’s got so little chance of being on the roster that the broadcast doesn’t even list his last name.
Crap, you looked away for a second! What’d you miss? Two solid minutes of silence? The sound of sea gulls mating drowning out the broadcaster talking about a bobblehead giveaway four months from now? A still shot of a hat the team invented to sell for $40 and will never wear again after March? Sorry to distract you!
The games matter
Of course they matter! Every step a ball player takes matters. The second Gabe Kapler roundhouse kicks the pre-season bell, “training” takes precedent over the players’ entire lives: Dietary consumption, exercise regimens, sunlight exposure, hat size, walking gait, slumber quotients, breathing patterns (both volume and frequency), posture, composure, mental stability, smell detection, eyeball dexterity, hair growth velocity, gut sag aggregate, footwear selection, nipple placement, batting glove color, observation prowess, state capitals, and ability to wrestle a nude Phanatic injected with 150cc’s of elephant steroids are all critical barometers with which these players are measured from day one.
That information is recorded, analyzed, pushed through the Phillies new R&D department, and printed out on mile long spreadsheets so that a coach can sit next to the players while they sleep and, with toothpick-flavored breath, whisper the adjustments they need to make in their ears so that they are absorbed by their subconscious overnight and don’t force them to pause their training during the day to receive advice.
Why should we not take this seriously if they are taking it so seriously? Why is it that I am constantly maligned for my critiques of players jogging to first base during exhibition games? You give these guys one free pass and next thing you know, they’re retweeting their girlfriend’s daily koala facts account on their way to first base. This is serious. Results matter. If you’re not taking all thirty weeks of baseball seriously, then what are we doing here, besides defying our doctor’s desperate pleas to not exert ourselves eating hot dogs in the sun?
In addition, we baseball been played in months. Sure, we hear about the “winter leagues” happening elsewhere in the world during the off-season, but we all know those are just a myth perpetuated by Rob Manfred to deflect from the very real fact that every member of a 40-man roster is put on ice and kept on a fully automated vessel floating in international waters following the World Series. We should come into this ready to spectate our eyeballs dry, not yawning and wondering what else is on just because the results of these games are forgotten forever immediately after they end.
That, my friends, is why I pound out comments on every game, doing my part to make sure the Phillies players know in what extremely specific areas they could stand to improve following every performance: If I don’t tweet at Nick Williams to tell him he needs to stare directly into the sun for three hours a day in order for his eyes to adjust and never lose a fly ball in it again, maybe he drops one at a critical juncture later in the season. If I don’t yell into the television of an empty bar on a Tuesday afternoon that I just saw a bee dangerously close to Odubel Herrera’s ear, well; we all can see what happened the last time one of them got in there.
The games matter because every game matters, they are all connected in an endless chain of baseball that circles the calendar and consumes our lives. To deny spring training games are important is to deny that baseball is at all important, which is the cowardly refrain of concerned voicemails from friends or wives currently packing their bags.