Monday, February 18, 2008

Daily "Best Shape" Roundup

Who else is in the best shape of their career?

Jeff Bennett:
Bennett has dropped more than 50 pounds in the last seven months, reporting to spring training in probably the best shape of his life and giving himself a legitimate chance to claim a job in the Atlanta Braves' high-profile rotation.
Russell Martin:
"Yep, no question," [Martin] replied when asked if he was in the best shape of his life. "I feel stronger, faster. I feel athletic. I feel balanced, I feel strong in the right places."
Ryan Doumit:
Doumit admits being overweight contributed to his poor health history. Thanks to a strict offseason diet and workout routine, he reported to camp in what he said is the best shape of his life.
Paul McNaulty:
To ensure that wouldn't happen again, McAnulty dedicated himself to getting in the best shape of his career in the offseason. He worked out three times a day -- that's right, three times a day -- six days a week, an arduous mix of weight training, conditioning, riding the stationary bike and, of course, hitting, at his home in Oxnard, Calif.
Kevin Millwood:
Kevin Millwood threw out of the stretch for the first time Monday and he said he was feeling good after his second bullpen session of the spring. "Both of my hamstrings were tight after running, but that was everybody," he joked. Millwood went on the disabled list twice last season with a hamstring injury. "I think I'm in the best shape of my life," he said.
Dioner Navarro:
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” Navarro said. “But hopefully what I did will pay off and help me get through the regular season.”
Why do I get such a kick out of these quotes? I think it's because they're silly from two different perspectives.

First, the players are so outrageously optimistic heading into the new year. Yeah, it's what makes sports so great, but it also is just another bullet point in the list of things that demonstrate why we need objective analysis: there's just no way that every player who says "I'm in the best shape of my life" really is. Or, perhaps, even if they are, there's no way it will translate into superior performance. That it's always brought out in spring training as reason for optimism despite the dubious nature and ignominious history of the quote is amusing.

(Side note: the above also applies to every veteran who shows up and says something like: "We got a good team. We have good guys here, talented guys. If we do the things that we're supposed to do, we're gonna be real good." Yeah, sure. Now how likely is this?)

(Side side note: the best part about the vets talking about doing the right things is that they never mean working the count, hitting for power, striking batters out, and walking few opponents. No, they always mean bunting, hitting and running, stealing, and the ever nebulous "fundamentals." Seriously, I think hitting home runs is pretty damn fundamental, but I digress (from my digression withing a digression). Your team will not score if it can run and bunt, but has no one on base and don't hit homers. Don't tell the Giants, though.)

Second, the fact that sports writers parrot the line so completely without ever bothering to acknowledge the ubiquitousness of the quote is almost astonishing. If you're a writer, and a player says that to you, and you want to use it in your article, how can you not mention the unlikelihood of the truthfulness of that statement? The apparent lack of awareness on the part of Joe Media Man is also amusing.

And just think: position players haven't even reported yet!

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