I hate Spring Training. Hate it. There is nothing good about it, and the things that appear good have massive downsides. Baseball is back, but it's not baseball that amounts to anything. We get to see our favorite players and players that may become our favorite, but then we spend the next six weeks just hoping they don't get hurt. There's endless optimism, but it's ultimately dashed if our team isn't the one out of 30 to win the World Series. I just can't get excited about it (okay, most of that is not factually accurate).
But the worst part about it is the stats and narratives.
The biggest thing to avoid is making too much of nothing. I love stats. But Spring Training stats are useless. There's only a month's worth of stats. Anyone can do anything in a month, and no player actually gets a full month's worth of playing time anyway. Then you have to think about the competition - a lot of it consists of minor leaguers getting playing time just to see how they handle things, and a lot of the major leaguers are guys competing for final spots on the roster, meaning they're not even good major leaguers. And the good major leaguers are often going through the motions or trying new things, so they're not really giving their best either. Spring Training is basically everything that could possibly go wrong with stats rolled into one -- little information and most of the information is collected in a context that won't exist in a month or so.
The best thing to really do is use all of the information you have up to that point to make your roster decisions, but Spring Training tempts us all to do stupid things. A guy you like goes on a hot streak. A prospect hits well against other prospects, but people take that production as being against major leaguers and promote him/want him promoted. It's just treacherous. Remember to use all the information we have on a player with more weight than a few random Spring games.
People also make a big deal out of news stories. This guy's in the best shape of his life. This guy really is not in the best shape of his life. That guy has a new pitch. That guy has new hitting mechanics. This guy is motivated to rebound. Blah blah blah. It all sounds really good/bad, but the truth is that they're just stories. Until we see the players against other major leaguers who are trying their best -- we've already discussed how Spring Training is not the place -- you really just can't believe the hype.
And lastly, don't worry about records. When you spend most of the Spring using replacements, there's no reason to think that a team's record in Florida or Arizona means much. Writers and broadcasters like to spin wonderful or harrowing tales of how a team is gelling or not gelling, but it's often deadline fodder. Teams will go through good and bad stretches during the year, and there's no way to know what March tells about a certain team. Just enjoy having baseball around and let the chips fall where they may.
I realize this is a bit of a kill joy, but it really has to be said, even though more than a few of you already know this. Spring Training is filled with optimism and hope, but you have to be careful about reading too much into things. Enjoy the games. Pay attention to the tools and skills the new guys have. But don't get too carried away with what it means. It doesn't mean anything. It's just a means of getting players prepared for the real season ... you know, the one that actually counts.