Second base. Third base. Controversy around superstars of the game. The race to the bottom at center field. The back end of the rotation.
We’re going to see a lot over the next six weeks, that’s for sure. There will be a lot of talk from management about how this team can contend with anyone, how it plays with a chip on its shoulder because the sports media at large refuse to acknowledge the genius of relying on two starters who were totally awesome four years ago and have been less than reliable since. There will be artificial controversy in the sports pages over position battles that, if recent team history has taught us anything, were over before they started. There will be huffing. There will be puffing. And oh how sweet it will be.
But what about the other spring training storylines? What of the inevitable hilarious end result of a sane person having five months off of work? What, pray tell, of bust prospects and guys coming into spring training with “something to prove”? Let us gaze into the 35th Street 8-Ball and find out what the coming weeks have in store:
1. Who got fat? Juan Uribe’s gone, Bartolo Colon has always been huge and Bobby Jenks seems to have learned to take care of himself, so it’s up to a position player to show up slower and buried under a comfortable layer of hibernation fat. That’s the mark of a great team: a different guy steps up to get the job done every time.
2. Who gets hurt? It’s easy to pick Jim Thome, especially in light of his own State of the Career address to the Sun-Times, but the big guy’s injuries are almost always related to launching quarter-mile bombs. Look to a young guy with a freak injury, possibly a Cole Armstrong or Chris Getz playing a little too hard trying to prove something in an exhibition game. Should those two come out unscathed, look to Carlos Quentin to break his own jaw with a right cross after fouling off a 1-2 breaking ball that just caught the outside corner. Foul balls are failure to Carlos Quentin, and Carlos Quentin does not allow Carlos Quentin to fail.
3. Who will have the best and worst spring training? Look to Brian Anderson on both fronts: even if he mauls the competition, he’s already lost the starting job to Jerry Owens for arguably the flimsiest of reasons. On one hand, he has all spring to dazzle; on the other hand, he has all summer to be the late-inning defensive substitution for a leadoff hitter with a .321 OBP.
4. Will playing in the World Baseball Classic hamper Matt Thornton’s season? No.
5. Which of his players does Ozzie Guillen rip in the press first? See #3.
And yet we, suckers that we are, will watch and be entertained fully. Hallelujah, baseball season draws nearer by the minute.