Spring Training competition

42 days until Opening Day
7 days until first Spring Training game

The theme of the D-backs spring seems to be competition with the theory being that no longer will jobs just be handed out to players, they will have to be earned.

It’s a great idea that will foster a competitive atmosphere and force everyone to work harder than they have in the past and help them to reach another level, but it isn’t without some risk.

For example, let’s say for arguments sake that Kevin Mulvey or Zach Kroenke throw up zero after zero during the spring and by far and away post the best numbers of any of the starting pitchers this spring. And let’s also say that Zach Duke scuffles. Are the D-backs prepared to hand a starting role to one of those two and release Duke despite the fact that he’s owed $4.25 million this year?

And if they decided to keep Duke over someone who clearly outpitched him, what kind of message does it send to the clubhouse after you’ve spent weeks preaching that everyone has a chance to make the team? What does that do to the trust factor?

Again, it may not come down to that, but it is one of the risks you run when you say everyone can make the team.

It’s a little easier when it comes to position players and you’re talking about the competition at first base or left field. You play the best this spring, you get the playing time out of the gate. There are less big contracts involved at those positions.

I do understand the argument that you make bad player evaluations when you rely too much on their performance in March — when they might be facing players that will not start the season in the Majors — or September — when they might be facing pitchers that are only in the Majors because the rosters were expanded.

So yes, in theory, the D-backs should have a pretty good idea already what Brandon Allen, Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan can do at first, but given the struggles this team has had the last two years and the fact that the atmosphere in the clubhouse was one where some were clearly too comfortable, I don’t think the concept of earning a spot this spring is a bad idea.

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My colleague Corey Brock wrote an interesting story yesterday on Chad Qualls.

It seems despite all his comments last year to the contrary — and let me say that he was extremely adamant in those comments — his left knee did indeed bother him and that is what he feels led to him having a horrible season.

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Great quote from Gibson on why he wants his pitchers to be able to slash — i.e. fake a bunt, pull the bat back and swing away.

“You see guys just camp in there on your pitchers and I don’t like it,” Gibson said. “If they do that, my goal for us is we’ll have another option. I like to see guys hit the deck.”

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What it looked like this morning when I arrived at Salt River Fields..
SRF Morning.JPG

2 Comments

Steve, good to have baseball back even if it is only for Spring Training – can’t wait for the season to start!

Have to agree with your thoughts about the concept of earning a spot. It’s been painful to watch at times over the past couple of seasons, and it does really seem like what went on in the clubhouse had a lot to do with that. I don’t think any professional sportsman should get to the point where they take their job as granted. In a team sport it should always be the people who are playing the best who get the playing time. Healthy competition between team-mates to get the time can only be a good thing as it should lift everybody. Let’s hope it works that way!

Thanks again for the blog, it’s a great way for me to keep up to date over here in the UK, even if I do get very jealous when you put pictures like that morning view of Salt River Fields up!

Great post Steve.

This is an area where I would hope that if a decision has to be made, it’s mostly made on on scouting/subjective criteria, as using spring stats for any kind of evaluation is seldom useful, and mostly counterproductive.

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