Detroit Tigers: Spring Training This & That


Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training games don’t really matter much.

This may be blasphemy to the hard core baseball fans that frequent this site, but the purpose of the exhibition season has greatly changed over time.

Long gone are the days of players working back in shape after an off-season spent working in factories or farms to make ends meet between (small) baseball paychecks.

Today’s Spring Training is more about the fan experience, marketing, and boosting the economies of Arizona and Florida than actual “training.” The romance of Spring Training stems from cold-weary fans listening to Dan and Jim calling every pitch each afternoon in March (and this year, February) while looking out the picture window to see yet another blanket of late-winter snow. For those fortunate enough to take in a game in Lakeland, the game is often secondary to “holy crap, I am sitting in a t-shirt and shorts outside, drinking a beer and watching baseball in early March!”

So while we are all feeling nostalgic and loving Spring Training now–wait a month. The “dog days” of exhibition baseball will soon set in for both players and fans, and the nostalgic/romantic feelings will be replaced with–“yeah okay, I will watch again when the games count.”

February 25, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman

Miguel Cabrera

(24) hits a 3-run home run in the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While we’re all still paying attention, here are a few thoughts I had while taking in the first couple days of Grapefruit and Cactus League action.

-Home runs look a whole lot more majestic in minor league stadiums, don’t they? The trio that the Tigers will be relying heavily on to hurt baseballs this season, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez, have all tore the covers off their home runs this spring.

Click on the following links–I promise it will be worth it:

Prince’s bash in Lakeland

Miggy goes over the Tiki Bar in Clearwater

Of course, these big flies have nothing to stop their ascent into the stratosphere, like they would in regular MLB parks, but there is just something about hitting it over the “Tiki Bar” that says, “ahhh spring baseball….”

-When does the panic set in over Justin Verlander‘s first performance? As a lifelong Tigers’ fan, an internal review of us shows that we tend to be a bit panicky and reactive over minor issues.

JV started his 2013 season by (gasp) allowing a RUN on (double gasp) three hits in just two innings of work. While there might be some consternation that he didn’t go his usual six-inning minimum, remember he did strike out two, and also remember, Spring Training, Day 1 means nothing in (hopefully) October.

The majority of the more cerebral fans of Detroit will give their star hurler a pass, however if this was a regular season game, or an All-Star Game, there might be allegations of a “breakup” with Kate Upton to explain the subpar outing.

-Finally, Ryan Rayburn Raeburn Raburn is playing people for suckers again. Thankfully, it’s not the Tigers that he’s fooling this time. Raburn has moved on to division rival Cleveland and has come up with some rather clutch home runs (if anything in Spring Training can ever be considered “clutch”).

Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Three home runs at the moment this article is being written (by the time it’s posted, it could be 40), has led Indians’ fans into believing that they have the second coming of Roy Hobbs. The man crushing even lead Nick Swisher to don his very own Ryan Raburn jersey.

No one really wishes any ill will toward Raburn, except when he plays against the Tigers. He didn’t seem to be a bad guy, and seemed to give his all when he played. We’ll always remember that two-run 9th inning home run in a 2011 game against the White Sox that tied the score and led to Miggy’s walk-off shot to complete an 8-1 comeback.

Sadly, we will also remember the bonehead play in left field in Game 163 against the Twins, that tied the game in the 10th inning, and ended any 2009 playoff hopes.

In other words: good luck Indians’ fans. You’ll see some things you’ll like, many things you won’t.

Just don’t expect the Spring Training Babe Ruth to head north with the team. Often times when the pressure is on, Ryan is nowhere to be found.