Spring Training has opened up across Major League Baseball, and fans are poised to put too much stock into the .310/.400/.530 line put up by a 34-year-old non-roster invitee over 19 plate appearances. HOW COULD THEY CUT McCLAIN?! I joke, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled by the prospect of baseball - any baseball - around the corner. And if it means irrationally buying into the outlandish performance of a career minor leaguer, well, I'll probably be guilty of it, too.
- At least one pundit (Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times) expects the Seattle Mariners to name Chone Figgins the team's leadoff hitter soon, which makes total sense given Figgins' .241 OBP last year (not a typo). That's probably a modestly unfair criticism, given that Figgins played in just 81 games last year, and, in 2010, he had a slightly more lead-offy .340 OBP. Also, his BABIP in 2011 was a perversely low .215, down from a career .329 mark. Still, he just turned 34, and his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Whatever rebound in his OBP we can expect, I'm not sure Figgins is the guy I'd want to be giving the most at bats on my team. Figgins would be replacing long-time leadoff man, Ichiro, who's seen his own OBP drop precipitously, from .386 in 2009 to .359 in 2010 to .310 in 2011.
- When he isn't shilling for 'Head and Shoulders,' Joe Mauer is getting ready to play some baseball. Coming off another injury-filled and disappointing 2011 campaign (Mauer hit just .287/.360/.368 in just 82 games, all career lows), Mauer feels much better this year. "If you don't have that chip on your shoulder then something's wrong," Mauer said. "I think everybody, including myself, is just embarrassed about how last year played out. I'm just anxious to get back on the field and play."
- Adam Wainwright, who was lost to the Cardinals in Spring Training last year after hearing the always-terrifying "pop" in his elbow, is back on the mound, convinced he'll be ready for Opening Day. The Cardinals are likely to limit the right-handed slightly this year, after Tommy John surgery. He's not likely to go much over 200 innings.
- Annual bridesmaid, the Texas Rangers come to Spring Training once again hoping to close the deal in October. Rangers President Nolan Ryan acknowledges that, because of the offseason improvements in Anaheim, his team's road may have gotten a little tougher. "I really think the Angels have improved themselves," Ryan said. "You don't sign a player the magnitude of Albert Pujols, and him not have an impact. I also think C.J. fits in their rotation. They're going to be tough, no doubt. But we feel we're better, too. It should make for an interesting season."
- Brewers' set-up man Francisco Rodriguez is considering suing his former agents. Why? In his previous contract with the Mets, Rodriguez was supposed to have a limited no-trade clause, where he could name a number of teams to whom he could not be traded without his permission. The problem? His agents failed to submit a list of teams to the Mets. Rodriguez, then a closer, was subsequently traded to the Brewers, a team with a very clear closer ahead of him. One of the teams that was supposed to be on K-Rod's no-trade list? The Brewers.
- Mike Cameron has elected to retire, rather than report to Washington Nationals' camp. He'll leave behind a productive career that featured a .249/.338/.444 line, three Gold Gloves, and dozens of highlight reel catches.
- Rob Neyer talks up the latest Joe Posnanski column, discussing baseball's history of knuckleballers.