The world according to Jim:
• It must be because we’ve missed baseball so much. What other reason could there be for small spring training happenings to blow up into major stories?
Shohei Ohtani graduates from “dry swings” (who came up with that term, anyway?) to hitting off a tee, and Angel fans pump their fists in delight. Ohtani still is a year away from the two-way player promise that intrigued all of baseball a year ago, but if he can DH regularly the Angels will be better.
Corey Seager throws the ball across the infield, and Dodger fans smile. The 2016 National League Rookie of the Year is coming back from elbow and hip surgery, and any clue that he might be ready for the opener is a positive.
And when Clayton Kershaw halts his throwing program a little more than a week into camp, with the explanation that some undetermined thing with his left shoulder just isn’t quite right, it’s suddenly a big story. Folks note his decrease in velocity over the years and the difficulties he had differentiating his fastball and slider in 2018 (most starting pitchers would welcome such difficulties if they came with a 2.73 ERA and 4.0 WAR) and wonder how ominous this stoppage might be.
Oh, and that breeze you might have felt Sunday morning? That was the collective exhale from thousands of Angelenos after Dave Roberts confirmed that Kershaw would, indeed, play catch Monday morning. (Which he did, tossing the ball around with Walker Buehler).
And afterward, his shoulder was bothering him again. Let the worrying resume. …
• Bottom line? Relax, everybody. Take a few deep breaths. Opening Day is 30 days away.
Small things become big things in Florida and Arizona mainly because after months of obsessing over who’s signing where (and we’ll get to some of that in a moment), it’s a nice change of pace to have actual baseball details to ponder, however infinitesimal they might be in the grand scheme.
If there is still irritation in Kershaw’s shoulder on March 28, when he is scheduled to pitch the opener against the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium, feel free to panic. Until then, it’s just spring training. …
• Meanwhile, this publication’s Dodgers beat writer, Bill Plunkett, tweeted a photo of a Brinks truck that just happened to be parked outside the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch offices Monday morning, with this message: “#Dodgers preparing their offer to Bryce Harper.” …
#Dodgers preparing their offer to Bryce Harper pic.twitter.com/aS345shUpW
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) February 25, 2019
• So what are we to make of Dodgers officials meeting with Harper Sunday in Las Vegas, and particularly the presence of Guggenheim Baseball chairman Mark Walter along with Stan Kasten, Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts?
(Again, Dodger fans, deep breaths.)
It could be due diligence. Or it could be a market that has yet to reach the 10-year, $300 million-plus stratosphere, despite the best efforts of agent Scott Boras. Or else Harper really wants to play on the West Coast and/or really doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia. …
• I will believe the Dodgers will sign Harper if and when I actually see him in uniform, because this isn’t the way Friedman operates. Then again, Mr. Small Market Philosophy might have been spurred to action the moment former lieutenant and now Giants’ baseball boss Farhan Zaidi began doing his own due diligence. …
• If you had Oscar Fantenberg as the biggest transaction involving the Kings or Ducks on NHL Trade Deadline day, feel free to send along your prediction of Tuesday’s winning Mega Millions numbers. I promise I’ll share.
The Kings, meanwhile, have another lottery in mind. As of Monday afternoon, they’re second from the bottom in the overall standings, i.e. the #LoseForJackHughes derby, and according to the Tankathon website had a 13.5 percent chance of the No. 1 pick and a 38.3 chance of getting in the top three. (Ottawa is last and likely will stay that way after sending significant assets to Columbus and Vegas Monday, but the Colorado Avalanche owns the Senators’ pick.)
The Ducks’ odds, fifth from the bottom, are 8.5 percent for the top pick, 26.1 for a top three choice. …
• It is an article of faith in the football community: The public’s appetite for the sport is so voracious that a springtime league is guaranteed to fill a void and create a niche. But faith keeps running into, and bouncing off of, reality.
The new Alliance of American Football is already raising red flags after just three weeks. It had to sell a financial stake in the league to make payroll (i.e., cough up $250 million and you can be the chairman), it faces a lawsuit from an L.A. entrepreneur who claims it was originally his idea and he was frozen out, and then there are those huge blocks of empty seats on game days.
No spring league has succeeded yet. This won’t be the first. (And neither will the XFL when it starts up again in 2020).
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter