Sometimes Spring Means Something More

One of the consistent themes we hear over and over from both players and coaches is how meaningless Spring Training games are. We are reminded that the goal of Spring Training is to prepare for the season and the outcome of the game is secondary.

As fans we all nod in understanding while in the back of our minds we wonder whether that is just lip service or if Spring Training really doesn’t mean anything. I had almost bought into the argument that is until today’s Diamondbacks game.

The Arizona Diamondbacks were scheduled to face the Seattle Mariners in what looked like on paper yet another mid-March game where the position players would get two or three at-bats and pitchers would last four or five innings.

From a marketing perspective this game was being billed as a clash of the titans. The Mariners would send newly acquired Cliff Lee to the mound while the Diamondbacks would counter with their own ace Dan Haren.

The game started relatively quiet. The Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the first and added another run in the bottom of the second to stake a 3-0 lead. Arizona’s offense has been inconsistent all spring so these three runs were especially good news made even better by the thought that they came against one of the more dominating pitchers in the American League.

Things did not go real smoothly for Lee in his second outing of the spring. On a play where he was attempting to back up the catcher after a hit, Lee collided with Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder and they both went to the ground.

Normally in a Spring Training game that is not really as unusual as it sounds. Everyone is trying to get back into the swing of things and sometimes people just get in the way of each other. From the collision it didn’t appear as though there were any issues between the teams or the players.

In the bottom of the third inning with two outs, Lee faced Snyder at the plate. Lee threw a pitch well inside nearly hitting Snyder. The next pitch was thrown over and behind Snyder’s head. Snyder took exception to the pitch and went out to the mound to talk to Lee about it.

This of course brought both benches out to the center of the diamond for a group hug or something like that. Umpires and coaches worked quickly to restore order and ejected Lee from the game.

As is always the case in these kinds of confrontation, Lee claimed the ball got away from him and he didn’t mean to throw at Snyder. Snyder of course retorted with the fact that Lee was “headhunting”. In the end, Lee left the game and went to a back field to finish his work.

So for the first time that I can remember, there was a near brawl during Spring Training. I hadn’t thought about it but I guess the players need to prepare for a fight and what better place to prepare than in Spring Training?

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