February 21, 2011
Forget all those updates about so-and-so being in the best shape of his life. Claiming something will not be a distraction is the new line when it comes to cliché spring training hotness.
Indeed, this focused group is growing in numbers by the day. Michael Young(notes) of the Texas Rangers became the latest member of the club on Sunday. Despite demanding a trade that has yet to come about (but made a 3-year-old sulk anyway), Young insisted that everything will be copacetic when it comes to the team's clubhouse this season.
From the Associated Press:
"He said he wasn't going to be a distraction. That was it," manager Ron Washington said, relaying what Young said during a scheduled team meeting before the workout.
Young's implied meaning: Case closed. End of story. Nothing to see here. Move along.
And he might be right. While those of us in the media and stands might be fascinated at the schism between Young and GM Jon Daniels, it doesn't mean that the jilted ballplayer will be bellyaching about it around the batting cage and on the bench every day this season.
But it also doesn't change the fact that Young is engaging in a familiar practice of denial this preseason. Among the other figures attempting to drop a cloth on the large pachyderm in the corner of the room and zero in on the task at hand are:
• St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols(notes), who said he's "more locked in this year than ever," despite admitting that the media circus surrounding his impending mega-contract is an undeniable "zoo."
• Cards manager Tony La Russa, who started off by saying that the Pujols situation could be a "spectacular distraction," then said it wouldn't be a distraction before creating a distraction on his own by claiming that the player's union was pressuring Pujols in contract talks.
• Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who believes the potential on-field loss of star Miguel Cabrera(notes) to rehab — or even simple concern for a friend and teammate who is struggling with personal demons — is "not going to affect the team at all."
And on and on.
Again, it's silly for anyone to think that any of these storylines would be a debilitating distraction on an everyday basis this season. But because the players and managers are so consistently adamant, it really makes you wonder what they would consider to be a distraction. The USC marching band tromping through the clubhouse? The return of Morganna? A moat filled with sharks and crocodiles between the on-deck circle and batter's box?
Ah, wait, we've just received word that there is at least one person concerned about a player's focus. It's Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker and he's worried that Brandon Phillips'(notes) recent entry into the world of Twitter might have an impact on his season.
"I just hope that it's not too time-consuming and distracting from what he has to do," Baker told reporters.
So for those of you keeping score at home:
Possible rehab stints, $300 million contracts and looming free agency = Not a distraction.
Irrelevant updates comprised of 140 characters and social media = Distraction.
Makes sense to me.