Back in 1984, Bill Veeck joined the TV show "Time Out" to provide an owner's perspective of spring training, and in classic Veeck fashion, he stuck a finger in its eye:
Spring training is the time of dreams and of hopes, when reality takes a holiday and every veteran is a wizard and rejuvenated, and every rookie is a potential Babe Ruth or a Satchel Paige, and no club has lost a single game that counts in the standings. Spring training, of course, is supposed to be for conditioning, and for selection, and for instruction, and I suppose there is a little bit of each.
But basically, it's to condition the fans. It's a con game.
You can watch the rest of it here, and he's not wrong -- especially when he says that "surprises only come with bad ball clubs," which makes the Sox' largely set roster more reassuring.
Nevertheless, I'm a fan of the priming aspect. I enjoy taking in the presentations, even if I don't believe a lot of them (I never penciled in Jerry Owens for 65 stolen bases). The players have to believe it, and they have to answer questions, and I have nothing better to do but listen and see if Avisail Garcia sticks to his new batting stance over the next month.
So while we're at it, let's take a look at the other storylines, some of which the Sox are setting for themselves, and others established more by the writers.
It'd be a lot easier to gear up for another month or so of Adam LaRoche if we could set the expectations to nil and be pleasantly surprised by a bounce-back season. But with Dexter Fowler finally signing with the Orioles for a not-terrible three years and $33 million -- pending a physical, which is far from a given in Baltimore -- it looks as though LaRoche's supposedly modest two-year deal has turned into a major obstacle during its back half. Justifying the commitment now takes on greater importance.
In his reintroduction to the media, though, LaRoche introduced a new problem, albeit a smaller one ...
He dealt with patellar tendinosis in his right knee late in the year, but he said it has improved with rest. He also took up CrossFit at the suggestion of a friend to get in better shape.
"It has never looked appealing to me," LaRoche said. "But a buddy talked me into it. I kind of got hooked on it, so physically I feel great."
... should he experience a rejuvenation, he's not going to shut up about it, going on and on about thrusters and fran times and whatnot. Small price to pay, I suppose.
It didn't take long for Todd Frazier's charms to set in.
And it'll be the upset of year if Todd Frazier doesn't emerge as one of most popular #WhiteSox players if he hits as he always has. Fun guy.— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) February 23, 2016
The Sox acquired several players this winter with defined personalities, and Frazier is Jersey Spice. He's from Toms River. He loves Frank Sinatra. His mother worries about him. He talks a lot. He's going to try to curb that last one ...
"Being from New Jersey, I talk a lot, so that's a little bit of it, but you try to lead by example," Frazier said. "As a good leader, you need people behind you to back you up. You can't do it single-handedly. Coming into a new complex and a new team, I'm not going to be as boisterous. I'm not going to be crazy. I have to find my little niche, find my way in there."
... but he's clearly positioning himself -- or being positioned -- to be the positive uniting force of this unit. Like I've said before, the Sox really need this pro-scouting slump to end with him. A lot of hopes are riding on this one.
And then you have Brett Lawrie, who is spilling adrenaline and testosterone all over the place. While his relentless intensity has backfired on him in a couple of clubhouses, he comes to Chicago with a willing audience as he works on channeling his energy in a fashion that isn't so abrasive. David Haugh tried to figure out his deal, and this registers as the biggest surprise:
He isn't big on caffeine or Red Bull.
Daryl Van Schouwen's story suggests that Chris Sale won't challenge his own strikeout record if he has his druthers -- it's a trade-off for throwing fewer pitches and getting off the mound quicker. Otherwise, the only thing that may be different is his catcher.
"Here’s the thing,’’ Sale said. "When you get adrenaline going and in the heat of the moment, from the outside looking in, it’s a lot easier to say I shouldn’t have done that. But, no, I don’t look at either of those and wish I had them back. I was actually telling [former Tigers and new Sox catcher Alex] Avila, the other team isn’t supposed to like me anyway, so what do I care if they don’t like me a little more?"
If Avila is Sale's primary catcher, you could have a battery comprising quotable players. Avila is already on record as saying he "can't wait to kick their ass" when he faces his former team, and now there's this one he told Dan Hayes:
"I think there’s a misconception when it comes to respect and leadership," Avila said. "People think that you’re kind of like born like that. It’s something that’s earned. …
"People over the years have seen me, the way I carry myself.
"It’s not so much something you should earn by how you play. There’s a lot of d---heads that play really well that you wouldn’t consider leaders."
But lo! Another leader! Jimmy Rollins will have to prove that he's the best shortstop in the organization when he arrives, but it's pretty clear he's the most awe-inspiring. Here's Tyler Saladino:
"A guy like him, his experience and the level he has played at for so long, it’s going to be an honor to be out there working with him."
And here's Tim Anderson:
"I may get star-struck when I see him," Anderson said. "It’s a guy I look up to, and I’m really looking forward to working with him.
Hayes went to the Dodgers' side of Camelback Ranch to see if their anticipation was warranted, and Corey Seager says so:
Talked to Corey Seager and several other Dodgers about Jimmy Rollins today. Impressed might not be a strong enough word.— Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes) February 24, 2016
Where does this new Mount Rushmore leave Jose Abreu? Still in a good place. He remains the most destructive offensive force on the team, he reunited with his family in Cuba, and he says he's very happy to have Spanish-speaking Rick Renteria on staff.
"For us, it’s something very important," Abreu said. "It’s special to have that kind of guy in the coaching staff because you feel more comfortable when you have to communicate with them. That’s very good for us and very important.’’
"That’s going to be something that could help us to get better this year. He’s a very good coach, a great person. From the first moment that I met him, that was my feeling. Now I’ve been able to be with him these couple of days, he’s a very good guy and we need that."