George Carlin had his seven dirty words you can't say on radio or television. It was a very hilarious bit where he even said the words. In some ways, it was even funnier when the words were bleeped, using a separate sound for each word. But these seven words aren't dirty. They are refreshing. They even can be a sign of hope. The seven words? Pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
The degree of meaning can be different depending on which region of the country you live. If you are in the Midwest or Northeast, there could be a foot of snow on the ground or single digit temperatures. Just knowing its 75 degrees in Florida or Arizona and your favorite team is getting ready to play baseball means warm weather in your area isn't far behind. If you are in California, or maybe Texas, the weather might be fine, but now you're only a month away from when it really matters, days are longer, and of course baseball games count in the standings.
Certainly for the baseball fan, February is all about anticipation. Most free agents have signed their contracts, you probably have no idea who your fifth starter is, and you've forgotten that guy you used to like on one team has been traded to another. You have to re-familiarize yourself.
But while the beginning of spring training is a milestone, there's still that close to two week period between team's initial workouts and their first meaningless exhibition game. People pay good money for some of those meaningless exhibitions, and the best part is getting to either listen to them on the radio or watch them on TV. But now that guys have shown up, and have all talked to the media about how much more important it is to win a championship than put up good individual numbers, the lull kicks in. Do we really need Periscope so we can watch Zack Greinke throw a bullpen session? MLB Network actually used cell phone footage of (I think it was) Bryce Harper take batting practice! That might make a nice little segment on your late local news, but analysis, full breakdown, and discussion isn't really necessary. It was written today that injured Texas pitcher Yu Darvish threw off of a “half mound”. What the heck is that? What if he trips and falls off the other half? These are the stories you are stuck with for the next few days.
Still, it's a step. Pretty soon (next week) the first spring games start. Then, before you know it, starting pitchers will actually get to go three or four innings before they are taken out. Then, the Freeway and Bay Bridge Series arrive (meaningless games but in big league parks), and then it all begins for real. You'll know who that fifth starter is. You're now well aware that the guy you used to like on one team has been traded to another. You will have re-familiarized yourself, and you will have all but forgotten about February. But next year, you'll look forward to it all over again. It's winter, and you wait for that day. That day that pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
Spring TV: ESPN will televise five spring training games this year, which is the same number they put on the air last season. The first of the 2016 slate is Arizona at the Chicago Cubs March 8, followed by Boston at St. Louis March 21, Cubs at Giants March 24, Cardinals at Mets March 25, and Baltimore at Boston March 28. That's three games in Florida and two in Arizona. The network only ventured out west once last year... The Giants will be televising seven spring training games, including three over the air (KMAX TV in Sacramento), while the A's are only televising two games—both against the Giants... If you live in SoCal and are actually able to get the Dodgers channel (many people aren't), you should note that the Dodgers have cut back significantly on their preseason broadcasts. In their first two seasons, Time Warner's SportsNet LA aired every game. It's down to about a dozen this year, mostly on weekends. It's been announced that Vin Scully will do four games—March 25 in Arizona against the Giants, and the three games in LA and Anaheim versus the Angels.
Yaisel vs. Yasiel: The Dodgers have signed Cuban pitcher Yaisel Sierra to a six-year deal, and he'll probably start the season in the minor leagues. It's likely that when he comes up, his first name will be confused with that of fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig, although their first names are spelled differently. Each has other things to worry about right now as far as their major league career is concerned.
You bet-ter believe it: By an overwhelming margin, the Chicago Cubs are the betting favorite to win the World Series, even though it's something they haven't done in 107 years. The Cubs are 4-to-1, followed by the Dodgers and Astros at 10-to-1. If you still believe in that “even year” thing, the Giants are 12-to-1 along with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. You really should get better than the 500-to-1 the sports books are offering for Philadelphia or Atlanta.
Spoiler alert: While this is a loud “duhhh”, three major league managers have dashed all the drama, and shut up all the writers' questions before they even showed up to ask them. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has named Madison Bumgarner as the Opening Day starter. Houston's A.J. Hinch quickly followed suit, saying Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel will be on the mound April 4 at the Yankees, and new Padres manager Andy Green is going with Tyson Ross for the season opener against the Dodgers. Dave Roberts has not stuck his neck out with Clayton Kershaw quite yet, but that's probably a question he's not going to get asked a lot.
Waist Management: That was the headline in today's Boston Globe, complete with pictures of an overweight Pablo Sandoval. Giants fans know that ritual, but the Panda still has three World Series rings to go with all of those LBs. Hey, I'm not a Giants fan, just sayin'.