Feb 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura (23) during a workout at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

First day of the new White Sox order


Action-ish shot. // Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always hard to completely discount the urge to pay attention to the first new level of baseball gameplay. Even when we know it’s meaningless.

Players reporting

Initial Longview: Nothing even smells like it matters until they start playing games.

First Day: Oh boy! Look at them, they’re really running around in uniforms! Let’s check out who is and who isn’t fat!

Three Days In: Do these men ever stop lightly jogging around the field?

Spring Games

Initial Longview: Spring Training performance is meaningless. Need I remind you of Jake Fox?

First Day: Maybe if we just take informed notes of every game, we’ll have some reasonable research by the end!

Two Weeks In: Hey, we’ve reached the portion of the game where the MLB’ers just walk off the field in the middle of play because no one gives a rat’s ass.

Regular Season

Initial Longview: It’s important to stay wary of sample size

First Day: Promising signs from Tyler Flowers could mean big things!

Mid-July: Mother of God, what possesses this team to play every damn day of the week?

Now, we’ve just gotten through the first intrasquad game, the rustiest and most meaningless day of ball possible, and still…Avisail Garcia hit a home run! That’s gotta mean something! He’s struggled to hit home runs at times!

Nevermind that it was off of Scott Snodgress, who between being just live-armed and exciting enough to be at the big camp and erratic enough and reliant on his fastball to be the most hittable pitcher on the premises. But it was a damned home run and there are multiple sources confirming.

Emerging from the first game is the continued cult of Jose Abreu as this exaggerated model of the ideal teammate. He thanked God for his infield single, and claimed satisfaction with it by saying “As long as I help the team, I’ll take 100 of those,” through an interpreter. Technically, even this infield single hurt the team as much as it helped, but it was nice to see the wheels. I watched Abreu and Rich Eisen sprint on Tuesday, and it was nice that they weren’t comparable.

On this same day ESPN launched a fusillade of Jose Abreu coverage. Jared Cross trumpeted Abreu’s capabilities on the basis of Major League Equivalencies and rationalizing that the gonzo stats are gonzo stats no matter the context. In a sense we’ve all bought into this in placing faith in Abreu to produce, but surely it’s galling that the MLE formula Cross uses to drum up enthusiasm shows Abreu in a marked state of decline and with his last season worth a sub-.800 OPS.

Year PA HR AVG OBP SLG
’10 393 21 .273 .345 .543
’11 293 19 .300 .375 .601
’12 384 21 .259 .336 .511
’13 337* 15 .259 .327 .466

Jerry Crasnick’s piece on Abreu is more of the old school, profile reporting he has become known for, and shows the newest Sox first basemen as a self-flagellating workaholic. Crasnick finds Abreu hitting in cages at double the rates of his teammates, being too devoted to spreading the ball to all fields to enjoy an entire batting practice of 900-foot home runs and chastising himself after every misstep in infield practice.

Of course, leave it to Gordon Beckham to step in and offer the Deeply Troubling Statement That Was Supposed to Sound Positive.

“‘I’m sure there’s some new, fun stuff going on for him right now,’ Chicago second baseman Gordon Beckham said. ‘But from the outside looking in, it looks like he has the weight of world on his shoulders because of the contract.’”

Perhaps if Abreu has any real shot at being Paul Konerko‘s heir apparent, he has to take and own the Torch of Impossible Personal Standards. Konerko, for his part, has clearly put it down, at least for the moment. He spent the day chuckling about hypothetical brawls with the Sox’ assembled collection of huge dudes, basking in the weather and gearing up for lighter work load.

Not that I will even for a moment approve of the roster usage, but perhaps this is a better look for Konerko’s twilight; smiling and waving on the new ambassadors from the sideline rather than failing and failing until we all decided it had to end.

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Tags: Chicago White Sox Jose Abreu Paul Konerko