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MLB keeps spring clicking

March 29, 2012
By BRANDON VEALE ( , Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

Sometimes I run into folks in the supermarket or around town and they ask, "Boy, things must have really slowed down for you now, huh?"

Yeah, they have. I think you've figured it out by looking at the pages.

However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. We get a chance to go more in depth with the players and issues important to the Copper Country, provide a little balance on the regional and national sports scene and I get to catch up on my once insurmountable sleep debt.

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Besides, the world of sports has provided a nice little set-up full of sequential excitement. March Madness was fun, but has led to April Apathy thanks to a Final Four of Kentucky (evil), Louisville (beat a Michigan team), Kansas (OK, I guess) and The Ohio State University, which I hope is accidentally flown to Siberia before Saturday's semifinals.

However, for those not waiting to see if Kentucky's national championship will be vacated by the NCAA before next Christmas, Opening Day is just around the corner.

The Mariners and A's played the first two games of the season in Japan this week, and the Tigers and Brewers begin late next week.

I have yet to see a prediction of the AL Central standings that does not put the Tigers at the top, which is a weird feeling, considering I don't think I saw the Tigers predicted to do well much at all until the last five years or so.

The acquisition of Prince Fielder for a bzillion dollars has forced Miguel Cabrera to play his "natural" (his word) position, third base. I've watched one Tiger spring training game this year and two innings into it, Cabrera caught a ground ball with his face. I immediately turned it off in fear that Justin Verlander's elbow might tighten up if I watched any longer.

As for Fielder, my stance on the issue remains the same: The signing makes no sense at all, but I'm all for it. This big men with big bats approach reminds me of the early 90s in which Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton, Rob Deer, et al., hit countless home runs and struck out twice as much. I know Tettleton has a son quarterbacking the football team at Ohio University. Hopefully, Mr. Deer's progeny is lurking in Lakeland or Erie or somewhere in the event Detroit needs someone to hit .225 with 20 home runs and 200 strikeouts.

Much has been made about the Tigers' infield defense lacking. This is a concern, but if Verlander strikes them all out, who cares? Also, if the Tigers score 15 runs in the top of the first inning, these defensive problems will be largely irrelevant.

Besides, the Twins are awful, the White Sox are worse, the Indians went all-in in 2011 to finish 15 games behind and the Royals are at least a year or two away from serious contention.

If there's anything I've learned about postseason baseball in the Wild Card era, the objective is to get to the playoffs and get hot, because the baseball gods seem to be picking champions out of a hat these days. Seriously, the Cardinals are the defending champs?

In the interest of equal time, the Brewers are attempting to hold enough ground to return to the postseason for a club-record second consecutive season.

This year's 2012 Brewers campaign will be sponsored by FedEx: When Your Sample Absolutely, Positively Has to Spend the Weekend in the Courier's Fridge.

Yes, Ryan Braun escaped a drug suspension on a technicality, so he'll be around on Opening Day to lead a team that really isn't as bad as you think it will be. They've still got Corey Hart, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo and John Axford.

Furthermore, the Cubs and Astros are horrendous, the Cardinals weren't that good to begin with and lost Albert Pujols and the Pirates are ... well, the Pirates. If the Reds don't bounce back from a poor 2012, the Brewers have less competition than last year.

With two Wild Cards, I see this year's playoff teams as: Tigers, Yankees, Rangers, Rays/Angels in the AL and Brewers, Braves, Giants and Reds/Phillies. Pick two out of a hat.

So, I guess by some definition you could say "things have slowed down." I like to think of it as slackening to the kind of pace one can savor for 162 games.

Brandon Veale is sports editor of the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.



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