Tim McCarver’s Grapefruit and Cactus League PreviewBy: TimMcCarver
Another great season of baseball is upon us. My partner Joe is relaxing at home with the wife and kids after a long football season. He spends each afternoon in church so he can build up enough sanctimony to last the entire baseball season. But before we get to the regular season, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a preview of spring training and the exciting Grapefruit and Cactus League pennant races.
Each American League and National League team drops its affiliation every February and March and joins either the Grapefruit League or Cactus League. The Grapefruit League gets its name because it’s located in Florida. If it weren’t in Florida, it wouldn’t be called the Grapefruit League, unless it was located in Barbados or Jamaica; then it could still be the Grapefruit League. But it might be called the Reggae or Hookah League instead. But it’s not, because it is in Florida.
The Cactus League is in Arizona. Arizona is in the desert; thus the league gets its name from the multitude of cacti lining the outfield walls of every spring training stadium. And because of its arid climate, there are very few rainouts, which is a good thing, because if it did rain a lot, the infield would be wet on ground balls.
Grapefruit League teams include the Red Sox, Phillies, Tigers, Mets, and of course the Yankees, who play at Legends Field in Tampa (named for Derek Jeter, I believe). The Braves play at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports complex, but I think the Yankees are better suited for that Disney magic, because DJ♥ really does make my dreams come true.
The Florida Marlins also play in the Grapefruit League, but interestingly enough they fly north for spring training. But to Red Sox fans, that is beside the point. All Red Sox fans seem to know is that the Marlins have Hanley Ramirez, probably the fourth best player in baseball behind Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer (and of course DJ♥, the greatest player of all time). And the Sox, in return, have Josh Beckett’s slightly above average regular season pitching and Mike Lowell’s decaying corpse.
The Cactus League includes the Cubs, White Sox, Mariners, Brewers, and Angels, among others. And last year, the Dodgers switched leagues, leaving behind the Grapefruit League and Dodgertown for the Cactus League, where they can avoid the Yankees and have a better chance of winning a spring training pennant. (But the bigger question remains: is a Cactus League pennant worth pissing off all five remaining Brooklyn Dodgers fans?)
Speaking of which, spring training pennant races are notoriously difficult to predict. With a lot of teams, it’s as if they aren’t even trying to win. Just take a look at this box score from a Mets/Cardinals Grapefruit League game last week. The only Met regular in the lineup was Jeff Francoeur! The great Albert Pujols only stuck around for two at-bats. And the Mets pulled Fernando Nieve after only three innings. Most of the lineup is filled with minor leaguers and non-roster veterans. When teams don’t play their best players, they are guaranteed to win fewer games than they would with the regulars.
To be fair, some teams try to pile up wins by playing split-squad games. This sounds like a great idea. Send half the team to one field, and half to another. It’s like doubling your bet. But why would any baseball club want to split its team in two? Why turn one great Yankees team into the equivalent of two Royals or two Pirates? It’s like splitting tens in blackjack.
Other teams try to pad their win total by playing against college teams, but those games don’t even count in the spring training standings.
But there is one team out there trying to win. On March 4, the Phillies, last year’s World Series loser, beat the World Champion Yankees in Grapefruit League action. This totally makes up for the World Series. And on a related note, last night I masturbated to a chick I used to like. This totally makes up for never hooking up with her.
But now, yes, it is finally time for my predictions. My pick for Cactus League champion is the Kansas City Royals, behind Zack Greinke’s pitching, Alex Gordon’s untapped potential, and Jason Kendall’s $6 million dollar intangibles. This will bring joy to Royals fans everywhere before they can go back to their comfortable regular season place in the AL Central basement.
My 2010 Grapefruit League champion will be (who else?) the New York Yankees. How could any team lose with DJ♥’s Intangibles rubbing off on his teammates? (And, coincidentally, every morning I rub off to DJ♥’s Intangibles.)
And that’s it for my spring training preview. Stay tuned for my March Madness preview next week!
Tim McCarver is a former Major League baseball catcher, and a current sportscaster for Fox Sports. During the off-season he resides in Maine, where plays the open mic every Wednesday at Roscoe’s Rocking Railroad Buffet, where it’s “all-aboard” for reasonably priced entertainment.