And it's time to play every baseball fan's fifth-favorite spring training related game (behind Will This Guy Help My Fantasy Team?, Is The Rookie I Never Heard Of Hitting .545 This Spring For Real, Oh Crap What's A-Rod Going To Say Next? and Whatever Happened To Jayson Stark's Epic 'Stache?), Does This Spring Training Storyline Actually Matter? Let's begin!
Storyline: The Braves Just Signed Ervin Santana
Does It Matter?: Yes
Why?: Because three-fifths of the Braves' proposed starting rotation came down with injuries this spring, and it's kind of hard to compete with a two man rotation. With two of their top five starters hoping to get a group rate discount on Tommy John surgery, the Braves went out and got the best pitcher left on the market because otherwise this season - which is one of the last seasons in which guys like Heyward, Simmons, and Freeman will be dirt-cheap - would have gone down the toilet. For the rest of us, it means we can stop hearing "Is the compensation pick hurting Santana's chance of signing?" The answer was, and always will be, yes.
Storyline: Orioles are playing Nelson Cruz in center field in a spring training game
Does It Matter?: Only if he ruptures himself
Why?: Even the Orioles weren't dumb enough to sign Cruz for his defense. He is on their roster because he can theoretically still mash, and they need someone besides Chris Davis and Adam Jones who can hit the ball out of the infield without suffering palpitations. If they are putting him in CF for a spring training game, it is because they want him to get more at bats and needed a way to get him and some other guys in the lineup at the same time. I have no doubt that several men with guns sat him down before the game to explain how he is to exert absolutely no effort out there lest he get hurt, and that if he does try a diving catch, they're going to shoot his PS4.
Storyline: Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg and shortstop Jimmy Rollins are feuding
Does It Matter?: Not really
Why?: Any hope the Phillies have this year rests on their pitching. Most of their starting pitching is already hurt or ineffective, and Cliff Lee will no doubt resort to a Sheriff Bart maneuver to get himself out of town by the All-Star break. Unless there's some kind of a miracle, both the aging franchise legend whose production dropped off precipitously last year and the manager charged with getting this dumpster fire of a roster to the playoffs are both gone within 24 months, so whatever feud they have or don't have is going to be, at best, a B-plot to the Phillies' season. As for the reason for their disagreement - Rollins' unwillingness to go all-out in meaningless spring training games when his roster spot is assured and his hammys could roll up like windowshades any minute, versus new manager Sandberg wanting to show that Things Are Different Now - it will be forgotten the first time Rollins slugs a 3 run homer, only to be resurrected by the Philadelphia media the first time it looks like Rollins isn't running out a ground ball.
Storyline: Albert Pujols takes offense to being asked if he will put up "Mike Trout numbers"
Does It Matter?: Seriously?
Why?: If Pujols is healthy, he will put up Pujols numbers. If he is not, he will put up Nelson Cruz numbers, after a long and glorious career of putting up Albert Pujols numbers. Mike Trout, however, is an entirely different beast (read: he can run), so the comparison was nonsensical to start with.
Storyline: Can the Yankees contend this year?
Does It Matter?: Yes
Why?: Because 2/3 of ESPN's prime time baseball lineup is Yankees-Red Sox, and if the Yanks refer to their late season implosion form, it's going to be a very long summer in Bristol.