Anyone who follows or writes about baseball know that the tongue-in-cheek optimism surrounding "Best Shape of My Life" stories draws some of the best laughs during Spring Training.
A few pounds of weight lost or gained here (sorry, Jesus Montero), a pitcher trying a new grip here, and suddenly you have the undoubtable key to a great season, right?
Haha. Psyche. Most of the time, they'll still hit .240 or post a 4.50 ERA.
A single notion of change made even before exhibition games start doesn't deserve credit as the end-all, be-all of a player's future. After all, players often scrap changes that don't work so quickly early on in the year, or even before the campaign starts. I'll admit that reports of such bodily and approach-related improvements clog the flow of useful information, and it obviously takes more to be a great baseball player than to be in fine shape.
But it'd be foolhardy to write off every positive change, as I noted on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio Thursday morning during my weekly visit with RotoExperts. (Dr. Roto competes in our ongoing Baseball Analyst Draft and is quote the show host.)
Some hints of spring improvement even start long before spring but don't see the reported light of day for a long time. In 2012, Hunter Pence started living the Paleo lifestyle. In 2013, he stole 22 bases.
Now, you could say it was simply him taking more chances on the bases. He's hardly a lock for half that total this year. Yet the notion that he became more flexible because of a rejuvenated physique isn't far-fetched when you realize how a sweeping change like that can re-energize you. (Trust me. I've been on that food plan for periods of the last few years.)
This year, we have Pablo Sandoval (contract year) and CC Sabathia on the extreme-weight-loss train. Many worry that their Biggest-Loser-worthy transformations may actually hurt them, because they may lose power at the plate and on the mound. They were significantly obese, though, to the point that many had questioned their viability not only as baseball players but as productive human beings. Sandoval's hacks and Sabathia's delivery should be smoother, so they have to carry more hope (not pounds), right?
More reasons to believe on the next page....
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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