Today’s MVP is undoubtedly Brett Gardner, who went 3-for-3 beginning with a head-first slide into first to beat out what should have been an easy 3-1 (First Baseman to Pitcher) out. Anyone else on the team would not have made that safe. His speed is much to praise and a key to the Yankees’ winning strategy this year. Statistics put him at potentially stealing approximately 50 bases during the regular season, similar to his 2010-11 numbers (47 & 49, respectively).
But the highlights of the day were few and far between for the Yankees. Sure, there were a couple of blown umpire calls on both sides, but nothing was going to really save this game for the Yankees. Going into the 9th inning, they were behind 5-0. With 2 outs, the Orioles closer walked Corban Joseph, who proceeded to steal 2nd base, and on a single from Walter Ibarra scored the only Yankees run in the game. Those two events seemed to bookend today’s loss.
It was interesting to see the comparison in lineups, however. The Orioles played their stars — Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, and starting rotation possibility Brian Matusz. The Yankees played Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli (though you could count Jayson Nix, who played a good portion of 2012 as back-up infielder with the Yankees). It was clear from the start the Yankees were outmatched in this game, but maybe that was Girardi’s point — play the potentials and see who rises to meet the challenge they’re bound to face in the Majors. Intimidating, yes, but it must be a great way to see who is ready for the Show and who needs more time in Scranton, Trenton, or Tampa this year.
I suppose then that today’s game is a good example of why they do Spring Training. Sure, the regular starters get to ease back into everyday play, but it’s really more to see what’s coming down the line for the teams. One broadcast I was listening to mentioned how many scouts were at the game (I think he said the number was 35 or 40). I know I’m not the only one interested in what future stars might just one day don the pinstripes.
It’s funny how you can already tell which players have something special. I’m personally watching a handful of talent currently at Camp. Most of them aren’t ready to face the pitching and fielding of the Majors just yet (easily proved when facing them during Spring Training, for example), but there’s something there. Something you just can’t put a finger on. Something you begin to see after you’ve watched the game for a few decades and get to know patterns and potential.
I remember reading something a while ago about Michael Jordan’s brief retirement from basketball to play minor league baseball. Everyone thought he was crazy because he still seemed to have so many great years left, but Jordan needed to see for himself if a sport he loved was possible, even at his age. After a year, he went back to the Bulls for 3 more years and was as stellar as ever. Now the only person that ultimately mattered on opinion and decisions was Jordan himself. And if he hadn’t played baseball, he would have always wondered if he could.
That’s what I think of when I see the non-roster invitees at Camp. A good portion of them may never play in Yankee Stadium or any professional baseball stadium, but they should definitely make every effort to try while they can. Every professional athlete knows they are one serious injury away from permanent retirement, so pursue your dream while you can. Even if it means a loss to the Orioles or Blue Jays (who, by the way, are two of the better teams in all of baseball).
No regrets, young pinstriped ones!