Looking back over some of my old posts, it seems I make this analogy every year since at least 2009, but this year it fits so closely that I must make it again.
If you aren't of the Christian faith or are of a denomination that doesn't emphasize the season, you might not know much of Lent. Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, set aside as a time of preparation, of sacrifice, of remembrance. It starts on Ash Wednesday and runs until Easter morning. Most people honor the time by giving up something, though you could just as well add a discipline to your regular routine during this time as well.
Six weeks is also roughly the time of baseball's spring training. In fact, this year the official date for Cardinal pitchers and catchers to report is Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. (Otherwise known as Mardi Gras and, well, I'm guessing I don't have to tell you much about that.) Easter falls on March 31. On April 1, the Cardinals start their season in Arizona. It would be difficult to find a year where these things line up so perfectly.
And what is spring training but preparation for Opening Day and the day-to-day grind of the regular season? Just like Lent prepares the Christian for the "opening day" of Easter and the daily grind of living the Christian life after that. (Of course, the one difference about Lent and spring training--God doesn't cut you from the team if you don't make the grade. He's good like that....and every other way!)
Of course, there are a lot of pitchers, catchers and other folks already in Jupiter, getting the head start on that official kickoff. It seemed like most of them not earning their livelihood by throwing a ball toward home plate are helping Matt Carpenter get an idea of what second base is like. Jose Oquendo has him doing some drills and there's a village of people (in Derrick Goold's phrasing) helping out. Obviously, they are doing everything they can to turn Carpenter into a better hitting Skip Schumaker and we'll soon see the results.
I don't think Carpenter's going to be the regular second baseman--Daniel Descalso still is likely to have that slot--but it does give Carpenter the chance to be the next Oquendo, to be in the lineup almost every day even if it's at a different place. It's kinda what we thought we'd see out of Allen Craig last year, but to a higher level. It'll be interesting to see how Carpenter at second is treated in a close game this year. Do they swap him out for Descalso for better defense? Do they just move him over to a different spot and take out someone else? Do they leave him at second? Long way to go until those decisions have to be made, but it's still something to keep in mind.
One place Carpenter won't have to play regularly is third base, at least hopefully. David Freese will be manning the hot corner with a new contract in his back pocket. I was afraid that these negotiations would be more contentious, that if they did settle it was going to be on the team's terms instead of Freese's. Instead, if reports are right the two sides settled on a number that was closer to Freese's asking price of $3.75 million than the team's price of $2.4 million. It's still just a one-year deal, meaning the Cards haven't committed to him too intently yet, but another strong and healthy season and it should give Freese some more leverage to get a longer deal next year. Cards keep their no-arbitration-hearing streak alive for another year, having not gone to a hearing since 1999.
While there's obviously some interest on the hitting side of things, the pitching side is likely to where most of the focus will be this spring. Lance Lynn has come into camp significantly lighter. Which is fine and good, but he also cut the beard and that can't have anything but detrimental effects. As Tara said last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven, it is a good sign to see Lynn focused in on his career where, in the past, there's been a bit of a question about that.
More and more news and pictures will be coming in the days ahead. Starting with the big one today, which is that Chris Carpenter is expected to meet the press for the first time since the injury was announced. While there's not likely to be anything dramatic out of this press conference, it will be good to hear from him and see what the thinking is on his future.
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball