Daily Archives: March 6, 2017
Some teams find themselves in flux between identity shifts. I illustrate that by shaving my beard.
I take blade to face on this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
Ever wonder how spring training started, or why? Well, here’s a little history lesson after watching a recent repeat of Ken Burn’s Baseball on the MLB Network.
The Early Years
Stories are a bit conflicting with some claiming the first spring training taking place in Hot Springs Arkansas in 1886, by the Chicago White Stockings (today’s Chicago Cubs) and team President, Albert Spalding and Hall of Famer Cap Anson. Others claim that it was started back in 1870 by both Chicago and Cincinnati Red Stockings down in New Orleans. A third story starts with the Washington Capitals in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville. Regardless of which story you hear and believe, we know that teams started training down south in the late 1800’s to prior to the start of their seasons.
Now back in the early years of spring training, most players could not survive on just a baseball salary, so they’d go home after the season and find a job somewhere. Those jobs would take a toll and players would be out of shape and out of practice by the start of the season. When it came to playing spring games, it meant mostly against colleges, semi-pro, and at times another Major League team.
In the early 1903, Connie Mack had his Philadelphia Athletics train in Jacksonville, however after a disappointing season; Mack blamed the outcome on the tropical weather and teams focus and didn’t return for 11 years. One of my favorite stories around the A’ in Florida, was about a very eccentric star pitcher named Rube Waddell who wrestled an alligator while down in Florida.
Right now the thing that jumps out at you about this system is the number of big arms that populate the various levels. I will rank Alex Reyes on this list, but he is far from the only guy who will light up a radar gun in this system. Sandy Alcantara, Dakota Hudson, Junior Fernandez, Rowan Wick, Ryan Helsley, and Ronnie Williams all are radar gun delights who can push triple digits in short spurts. The Cardinals philosophy in regards to pitching has always been to teach fastball command to all four quadrants first and foremost, so even if a pitcher is showing high strikeout rates and posting quality ERA’s, they may not move quickly if they cannot demonstrate fastball command first and foremost. They tend to favor athleticism in their pitchers first and foremost, believing they can teach consistent mechanics if they have the requisite athleticism. The Cardinals look for loose, fast arms, as they believe this is an indicator of an ability to create spin on a baseball- needed for great breaking balls. Finally, they look to the changeup as their secondary offering of choice. Pitchers who can locate a changeup and keep their deception are less prone to platoon splits against either right-handed or left-handed hitters.