It is not surprising that spring training is a prime time for baseball quotes as this is a time of speculation and anticipation and lots of discussion. Of course being baseball-speak, the speakers often don’t say exactly what they mean, which brings us to the newest edition of WTSWTM (What They Said What They Meant), where an exact quote is taken from chron.com (Spit!!) or Astros.com and it is then followed by a proper interpretation of exactly what they meant.
Astros’ owner Jim Crane on the team’s conservative spending habits.
- What he said. “We’re never going to put a hard number on the plate. But you know, you’ve seen us, as we told you when we bought the team, as the team improved, we’d continue to spend the money in the right places and spend it in a frugal way.”
- What he meant. “I kind of like being the Scrooge McDuck of baseball owners. Hey, which owner this side of the Marlins can say the word frugal and mean it?”
Angels’ owner Arte Moreno on what it is like to be – uh – non-frugal.
- What he said. “Does one of these guys (big free agents) give us a better chance to win? Sure they do. But the reality is, are they a guarantee? And what we end up with, we end up with debt, we end up paying (luxury) tax and then it restricts what our flexibility is going forward.”
- What he meant. “Damn it – Jim Crane’s payroll this season is going to come in around $96 million and he has only about $28 million in guaranteed salaries beyond this season. I have a payroll of about $167 million with another $350 million guaranteed over the next 5 seasons. I’m paying $52 million to Josh Hamilton, who does not even play here any more (thank goodness). I know, I know Crane will have to start paying these kids or lose them, but his team beat mine out for the playoffs last season and will be on an upward arc while mine may be choking on Pujols’ salary. Oh and I have the worst minor league system around, while he has one of the best. I hate that guy.”
Crane on talking to his team at the fifth training camp under his ownership.
- What he said. “I just said, ‘Guys, it’s been five years. This is our fifth year in camp and a lot has changed. When we took over the team, we had the worst team in baseball and we had the worst Minor League system, and last year we made the playoffs and we improved the Minor League system to No. 1 [according to MiLB.com]. The plan is working and we expected a lot and that we’re here to support the team and give them what they need to win.”
- What he meant. “Yo Mama, Arte.”
3B Luis Valbuena on the bum toe that he played through in the second half of 2015.
- What he said. “Very bad. Very bad. It’s so — wow. They tried to put me on DL, and I said, ‘Nope.'”
- What he meant. “I hope no one asks why my stats went from .199 BA/.285 OBP/.715 OPS before the All Star Break (pre-injury) to .270/.359/.812 after the ASB. Dave Hudgens might club my foot with a bat in the shower, if he realizes that.”
Cy Young Winner (that is fun to type) Dallas Keuchel on Roger Clemens talking to the team in Spring Training.
- What he said. “When that guy talks, we listen. Anytime he’s around, everybody does their best to impress. I don’t know if it is always a good thing, but it’s definitely a good thing to have him around and pick his brain.”
- What he meant. “OK, the ‘I don’t know if it is always a good thing…’ part is because he gets so intense I am afraid some of the younger guys are going to lose their lunch. Sure he is old enough to be our father (his son Koby is 29), but do you want to have a possibly ‘roided up senior citizen in your face because you snoozed through a talk? And I think Nolan Ryan could kick our collective butts, too.”
Clemens on Keuchel being the #1:.
- What he said. “You need a guy that welcomes that challenge to be a front-line guy. He’s experienced that now. Like I called him after he won his Cy Young Award, ‘Congratulations, take a deep breath and we have to do it all over again.’ “
- What he meant. “I loved it, loved it loved it, when in the toughest situations, when he was undoubtedly tired and in a jam, how he would turn that death ray eye on A.J. Hinch when he would come out to check on whether he wanted to come out. And then after sending Hinch back to the dugout, he would dig deep and get out of the jam. That is what great pitchers do.”
Hinch on assigning roles such as closer to the bullpen.
- What he said. “I think roles like that are a little over dramatized. We need a good bullpen and we need it all under the umbrella of developing a championship-caliber team. Anything that goes in terms of roles and who plays or who doesn’t play, and who starts and who relieves, obviously we’ve got to make a declaration at some point and have generalized roles. But (Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles are) both on our team. They’re both going to pitch extraordinarily important innings. We got to sort out the order by the time we get into the season. But I don’t really look at it any deeper that.”
- What he meant. “C’mon, I did this same thing last spring. ‘Oh, roles are not that important. Maybe Qualls or Neshek or Gregerson will be the closer. Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah’. Be realistic. We just gave up a bunch of pitching talent for one major league fire baller and a low minors middle infielder. Yes, Giles will be the guy, but I’m not announcing it now. Come back in 5 weeks.”
Hinch on the first base competition.
- What he said. “Obviously, we’ve got to break these guys defensively to make sure they can handle the position. We ask a lot of our first basemen in terms of where they play, how far off the base, receiving throws, balls in the dirt. We don’t give away 90 feet. At least that’s our goal. The first baseman’s a big key in that. These guys are all going to get to play at first. We got six or seven guys that are going to filter through first base. Some that are already on our team like Marwin (Gonzalez) or (Luis) Valbuena, others that are vying for some open roster spots. It’ll be a really sort of busy area for us in extra work, in early work, in the games.”
- What he meant. “Yeah, sure. We are going to make our decision based on who plays defense best. If you believe that, you go stand in line behind Jon Singleton in the dessert line. And notice I mention the two guys, Valbuena and MarGo who are not really competing for the starting job as a kind of mis-direction. We’ve spent way too much time with inconsistent offense out of the 1B spot. If somebody grabs this job by the throat in spring training by playing great, sustainable offense – I will be begging Luhnow to let me have him even if he is the same height as Altuve.”
Speaking of Singleton. Hinch on his 15lbs of pure muscle weight gain in the off-season.
- What he said. “Big fella. He’s strong. He knows what’s in front of him.”
- What he meant. “I’m just hoping what’s in front of him is not chicken fried steak and hot fudge sundaes.”
1B Possibility Tyler White on…… Tyler White.
- What he said. “I’ve always been a contact guy, always been able to make contact with a lot of pitches, and I think that helps with getting walks, because I’m pretty decent at fouling some balls off and stuff. I heard a couple of things in high school and college: When you swing at strikes, you hit the ball well. I’ve tried to really take that into account and tried to really learn the zone. I continue to work on that and try to get better at it and I take pride in strike-zone discipline.”
- What he meant. “I’m an Astros fan like everyone else in the organization and it really hurt to see us lose to KC that way, but if you want a guy who follows the Royals hitting philosophy of taking pitches, spoiling pitches, taking walks, minimizing strike outs and getting on base – look at me. Nobody gave me a scholarship and I walked on Eastern Carolina and kicked butt. Nobody wanted me for 33 rounds and I’ve earned a spot at AAA by performance. Put me on the big club at DH or 1B and you will be happy.”
Astros 2015 Minor league pitcher of the year, Joe Musgrove on his great season.
- What he said. “I trusted myself and trusted in the stuff I had and the coaching staff gave me enough freedom to kind of go out there and do what I do. I think that was the biggest thing. I challenged guys, and I tried to put the ball in the zone and throw a lot of strikes and make them put the ball in play.”
- What he meant. “Man, I was 12-1 with a 1.88 ERA at 3 minor league levels, struck out 99 batters while only walking eight. Hell, yes I trusted my stuff.”
Bonus quote. Top offensive minor leaguer, 1B A.J. Reed on showing up last spring in much worse shape than this spring.
- What he said. “It was my first offseason alone and I wasn’t at school, where they’re kind of walking you through everything. I don’t think I was really ready for that and it was something I had to learn from. This year, I had a really good idea what I needed to do and where I need to be to be successful. I feel I’m in a really good spot.”
- What you think he meant …….