Spring Training NotesFirst off, I watched my second Spring Training game today as the Yankees defeated the Astros, 3-1. The best part of this game was definitely A.J. Burnett's four spectacular innings of work to start the ball game. He pitched a perfect four frames while striking out three. What was most impressive and encouraging about the performance was with how little effort Burnett seemed to be throwing, despite radar gun readings that had his fastball sitting at 93-96. His accuracy was incredible as he worked the corners deftly and his breaking ball looked as sharp as it would in mid-season.
At the plate today, the Yankees didn't do too much. Johnny Damon's laser of a home run was really the only highlight. The other half of the split squad game, the one I wish was televised, was much more offensive minded. Both Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero hit home runs, the latter's being a grand slam. Every Yankee fan ought to keep a sharp eye on these two, as they are a huge part of the future of the New York Yankees.
In other ST news, Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte returned from the WBC with injuries that appear to be minor, but I'm cautious, as I am with any Yankee injury. Is the WBC to blame? Probably not wholly, but I still don't like the tournament for a variety of reasons. The first is that it simply takes away time players should have with their club teams. Second is that it's far too early for a playoff-like atmosphere. Third, I just don't like it when sports have to act as a veil for petty nationalism--this applies to the Olympics as well. If it's really all about the sport, why do the teams have to be national ones? If I had my way, I'd eliminate the WBC altogether. Despite that, though, I realize it's here to stay and is a good concept. Changes, however, should be made.
The timing is not one of those changes, despite the fact that it is poor. However, March is the lesser of a multitude of timing evils. Putting it mid-season would be moronic, as would putting it post-playoffs. What I would change is the teams. Instead of the teams being countries, they would be the winners of that country's league, meaning this year the US would've sent the Phillies to the WBC, Japan would've sent NPB's champion, and so on. I think this would give the world a much stronger idea of who baseball's best country is. Of course, there are pitfalls to this solution as well. Do we really think the Italian league champs would stand a chance against the Phillies? The teams also change year to year, what with free agent acquisitions and trades and what not, but whatever. It's still more entertaining to me than watching petty nationalism played out on a baseball field. This also may hurt the team's chances to mix younger players into the Spring Training fold due to the season-like atmosphere, but they could probably find time against the lesser teams. This idea isn't much better than the current WBC, but I think it's still an improvement. Either way, the WBC sucks.
UConn Basketball Six fuckin' overtimes. I stayed up for the whole damn thing and they lost. I was furious. I hate Syracuse. Jim Boehiem's alright but the players and the team itself, forget 'em. There is no one in college basketball I hate more than Eric Devendorf and his little eyebrow-pencil looking beard. Anyway, I don't think this hurts UConn's chances at a one or two seed in the Big Dance, but I'm still weary of the team. Losing Dyson really hurt and I think other teams have figured out how to attack Hasheem Thabeet: go right at him and try to out muscle him. UConn has the talent to make it all the way to the Final Four but they do have weaknesses, mostly three point shooting and free-throw shooting as well. If they are going to make a long tourney run, Thabeet will have to toughen up a bit, Adrien will have to regain his scoring form from early in the season, AJ Price will need to keep up the hot three point shooting, and Kemba Walker will have to be, well, Kemba walker. I've said it before and I'll say it again, in 2-3 years, Kemba will be a Player of the Year candidate.