The cactus league has ended, and so we can get on to real baseball. Not that Spring Training isn't fun, but everyone knows it doesn't count for anything, which results in pitchers experimenting with new pitches, batters trying new stances and approaches, and not so much concern about the outcome. Let's say Ryan Franklin decides he's going to take one inning just working on locating his fastball, and Bret Boone decides that he's going to look for opportunities to hit to the opposite field. Neither player is trying to win, but they are still putting ST games to good use.
Dave Neihaus himself talks about how meaningless ST games are to the regular season in his latest appearance on MLB.com Radio. (He also talks about, among other things, his first impressions of Ichiro, the pitching staff, and the party line about how Richie Sexson's physical put him under the most intense scrutiny EVER). Neihaus says his idea of a successful season would put them at 82-83 wins, right where Diamond Mind puts them.
One more thing Neihaus talks about is how the front office realized they had to go out and spend money to show the fan base that they were serious about turning the team around after last year's 99-loss season. While I'm glad they opened their wallets, and I agree that doing so was necessary, I am concerned if the primary motivation was pacifying a restless fan base, and not first to improvethe team. I think the biggest lesson Billy Beane's example should teach every front office is this: never stop trying to improve your team, even when it means ignoring popular fan sentiment. The result has been a consistent contender and a fan base that believes he's doing the right thing, even if popular players leave (see Giambi, Jason; Tejada, Miguel; Mulder, Mark; Hudson, Tim). We need a front office that is going to try to improve the team before it falls apart and fans get angry.
All that being said, I'm excited for the season, to see how Reed and Madritsch perform in a full season, how Beltre and Sexson perform in new uniforms and stadiums (since both come from the NL, of course), if Franklin can return to bullpen excellence, if Meche can put it all together, to witness Jamie's last hurrah. Hope springs eternal, penned Thayer. Play ball!