Are you sick of hearing the same cliches every spring training? Tired of the same banter and discussion no matter the season? Then you may want to play some spring training bingo! This is something I started last season when I grew weary of hearing the same phrases and topics over and over (and over) again. The concept is extremely simple – create a grid on a piece of paper, five squares across, five squares down, with a free space in the middle. (You could make a different size board, this is just my suggestion). If you go by my suggested format, it means that you’ll need material for 24 different spaces. I’ve provided you with 24 suggested topics/sayings/cliches, but feel free to develop some of your own. Pitchers and catchers report in just a few days, so you’ll want to be ready to play!
1. “Such and such is in the best shape of his life.” Let’s face it. If you really wanted to, you could select 24 of the 30 major league teams and use them to fill in your bingo card. Then when someone says that about at least one of their team’s players, you can cover the square. Because you know someone’s in the best shape of their life on pretty much every team.
2. “Player X has really slimmed down this offseason.” While similar to #1, it is slightly different. You can lose a lot of weight and still not quite be in the best shape of your life. As an example, I’ve lost some weight but am far from the best blogging shape of my life. I’ll be sure to let you know when that day comes.
3. Any breakdown or discussion about Trevor Bauer’s unique training regimen. It’s unorthodox and different from other pitchers! It caused friction in Arizona! You will know all about the details soon enough (if you didn’t already).
4. “It’s a tricky sky in Arizona and/or Florida. It’s easy to lose the ball up there.” I’m guessing it’s the same sky as everywhere, but since I’ve never caught a fly ball in either locale, I’ll go ahead and say it’s possibly true. Whether it’s true or not, someone is going to say this.
5. A player gets a DUI, or ends up arrested in a drunken bar fight. You could add an extra layer of fun to this by betting on whether it will happen in Arizona or Florida first. Todd Helton just got busted for a DUI, but it’s not quite spring training yet. SO CLOSE.
6. “He’s already in mid-season form.” Let me tell you a little something about mid-season form. In 2011, I happened to see a Rockies/Padres game at the Salt River Fields ballpark (which is gorgeous, by the way) during spring training. Who was the starting pitcher for the Rockies that day? Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez was set to throw just 2-3 innings, but was extremely efficient and had a perfect game going; therefore, he stayed in through the fifth inning. Cue the “mid-season form” quotes. Later that season, he was traded to Cleveland and by that point was pretty much in “spring training form.”
7. A snarky comment comparing the current weather in Cleveland to the current weather in Phoenix. I’m all about doing this…you can count on me for covering this square. I’m going from March 8-17, so be ready.
8. “Such and such came to camp early because he means business.” Let’s be fair here; is there any player that comes to camp not meaning business? All I can think of when I hear someone say that is this old satire from The Onion, where Manny Ramirez forgets to show up to spring training.
9. Someone tests positive for PEDs. If it happens, will it be a major leaguer, or a minor leaguer? Side bet time!
10. Discussion of Terry Francona’s new book and whether or not it will be a “distraction.” Is he writing it in the dugout during a game? Then I’ll go with “probably not a distraction.”
11. Any fretting over the impact of the World Baseball Classic on a team’s players. I’m of two minds on this one. On one hand, there’s probably the same likelihood that a player gets injured during a spring training game as a WBC matchup. Pitch counts are limited and WBC coaches will probably err on the side of caution with players. Someone could twist their ankle during a scrimmage with the Rangers just as easily as they could in a game against Canada. On the other hand, you probably do have to worry about players that get too “pumped” in a WBC game and that they’ll push themselves harder than they would during a spring training game. I’m looking at you, Chris Perez.
12. Sad, depressing discussion on Matt LaPorta. He’s out of options, but he’s not even on the 40-man anymore. It may be close to the end of the line for this once-promising prospect, at least where the Indians are concerned. If he gets some at-bats this spring, you can probably count on him letting go of the bat on a swing and miss at least once.
13. Any discussion of BioGenesis and PEDs. If you made a bingo card with just this one topic listed 24 times, you’d still fill your card in under an hour.
14. “Minor leaguer/rookie really hopes to leave an impression this spring.” I may be going out on a limb here, but don’t they all hope to leave an impression?
15. Any discussion about golf. Everyone loves talking about how they go golfing during spring training. Yes, we get it; the weather is nice and your ball isn’t going to get lost in the snow. Bonus points for any fretting over how Player X should be working on pitching/hitting instead of playing golf.
16. “Such and such benefited from a new workout regimen this offseason.” Let’s just hope that regimen wasn’t designed by BioGenesis.
17. “He’s seeing the ball really well.” Only explanation? New, bionic eyeballs.
18. Heartwarming story about how opening day pitcher is honored to be opening day pitcher. Obviously it’s probably a great honor to be handed the baseball on opening day. It always comes with the obligatory story about how the player is honored to have this opportunity, it makes up for all of the challenges they’ve faced, etc. I don’t even know who is going to be the opening day starter for the Indians this year, but I would guess it would be Masterson again.
19. Constant “what ifs” regarding Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson. I’m really sick of this one, but only because of the fact that we have to keep wondering “what if?” as far as they’re concerned. What if Jimenez pitched like he did in 2010? What if Masterson pitched like he did in 2011? What if I found a stray unicorn and made it my primary mode of transportation?
20. A-Rod, A-Rod, A-Rod. Already sick of hearing about A-Rod? Too bad…be prepared to hear about him 7,563 more times in the coming months. As spring training gets underway, there will be stories about how his teammates love and accept him, no matter what. There will be more speculation that his days in pinstripes are over. If he so much as walks into camp in some sweatpants, it will become a newsworthy item. Don’t worry, you’ll want to stab forks in your ears by the time it’s all said and done.
21. Stephen Strasburg and limits on the innings he will pitch. Oh, you thought that was all over? No, no, no, there will be more.
22. Continued disbelief that Terry Francona wanted to manage the Indians over other teams. It feels as if I’ve already seen this whole scenario unfold about 30 times this winter, and he hasn’t even managed a spring training game yet. Someone expresses disbelief over the fact that he wanted to come manage in Cleveland. Francona tells them, “no, it’s true!” and reiterates how it was “manage the Indians or return to broadcasting.” Wash, rinse, repeat.
23. “Don’t worry, we’ve “fixed” Ubaldo Jimenez!” I seem to remember several stories circulating last offseason/spring training that the Indians had located a “glitch” with Jimenez and they’ve fixed it and made him good again. I’ll believe it when I see it…and trust me, if someone says it I’ll really, really want to believe it. However, what is it that they say about the definition of insanity? That’s it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
24. A trade rumor involving Chris Perez. There’s so many of these. So, so many of these.
Well, there you have it – my suggestions for spring training bingo, 2013 edition. It’s a mix of national and local topics, specific (focusing on a single player) and unspecific. Best of luck covering the spaces on your card!