USA TODAY Sports Weekly

Truths spo­ken at win­ter fan fests,

Lis­ten closely, be­cause they speak the truth

- Gabe Lac­ques @GabeLac­ques USA TO­DAY Sports Sports · MLB Baseball · Cactus League · Baseball · United States of America · Corey Seager · Los Angeles Dodgers · Los Angeles · Cy Young · Zack Greinke · Arizona Diamondbacks · Arizona · Aroldis Chapman · National League (Baseball) · New York Mets · New York · Dave Roberts · National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum · Kansas City Royals · Kansas · Kansas City · Carlos Correa · Francisco Lindor · Houston Astros · Cleveland Indians · Cleveland · Milwaukee · Milwaukee · Scott Kazmir · Chase Utley · Justin Turner · Yasiel Puig · Cooperstown, NY · Todd Frazier · Brett Lawrie · Alex Avila · Robin Ventura · Melky Cabrera

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Sure, they’re sup­posed to be all about slap­ping hands, spin­ning yarns, sell­ing tick­ets and rolling out newly ac­quired as­sets we once re­ferred to as play­ers. Yet the win­ter fan fes­ti­val/car­a­van can oc­ca­sion­ally re­veal greater truths about the up­com­ing Ma­jor League Base­ball sea­son.

Some half-dozen ma­jor league teams filled up con­ven­tion cen­ters, shop­ping malls and sta­di­ums last week­end, pass­ing the time as the snow melted and the date for pitch­ers and catchers to re­port drew closer. USA TO­DAY Sports dug up a few of the more telling quotes from coast to coast:


The kid in ques­tion is Corey Seager, of course, the 21-year-old rookie short­stop who sym­bol­izes the Los An­ge­les Dodgers’ ap­proach: Hold on to top prospects. Wheel and deal spare parts in­ces­santly. And ac­crue as many use­ful ma­jor lea­guers to out­flank your ri­vals.

There was much angst in L.A. when the club let Cy Young Award run­ner-up Zack Greinke sign with the divi­sion ri­val Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs. The fear — and in some cases, loathing — was hardly al­layed when the club opted to re­place Greinke with an amal­gam of Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. A trade for re­liever Aroldis Chapman fell through and big-ticket lineup ad­di­tions were non-ex­is­tent, the club in­stead re-up­ping vet­eran in­field­ers Howie Ken­drick and Chase Utley.

So, what to sell in 2016? Seager, the con­sen­sus top prospect in base­ball who got a trial by fire in bat­ting se­cond or third in three of the Dodgers’ five Na­tional League Divi­sion Se­ries games against the New York Mets. That came on the heels of a 98 at-bat au­di­tion at the end of the year in which Seager bat­ted .337 with a .986 on-base­plus-slug­ging per­cent­age.

This year? Seager, Gon­za­lez and third base­man Justin Turner fig­ure to be the only con­stants in a lineup that will jug­gle two All­Star se­cond base­men and four All-Star outfielder­s. That doesn’t even ac­count for a pitch­ing staff in which you can al­ready pen­cil in at least eight play­ers who fig­ure to make mul­ti­ple starts this sea­son.

The jug­gling of roles and egos will be a daunting task for new man­ager Dave Roberts, who made a point to chat with slimmed­down out­fielder Yasiel Puig, who hopes to re­turn to the club’s good graces af­ter an out-of-shape, in­jury-marred 2015.

That’s a lot of noise go­ing on for any club, let alone the big-mar­ket Dodgers. Enough that Seager can qui­etly take his first steps to­ward what one team­mate be­lieves is a jour­ney to­ward Coop­er­stown.


For the se­cond con­sec­u­tive off­sea­son, Chicago made sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tions to a club com­ing off a dis­ap­point­ing year. This time, the re­in­force­ments are in­field­ers Todd Fra­zier and Brett Lawrie and catcher Alex Avila, a trio that cost the club mostly prospects, rather than cash.

Still, it’s clear that af­ter los­ing 86 games and fin­ish­ing 19 games be­hind the world cham­pion Kansas City Roy­als, third-year man­ager Robin Ven­tura might not sur­vive an­other slug­gish start.

“Robin’s had a lot of pres­sure through­out his life,” Ea­ton said via sub­ur­ban Chicago’s Daily Her­ald. “I don’t think he’s too wor­ried about it.

“When we put our big boy pants on and come ready to play and get the job done, you guys are all go­ing to see what a great man­ager Robin is. He’s a great man­ager, and I stand be­hind that. It’s our job to make him look good.”

A re­bound from 2015 ac­qui­si­tions Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche would help, as would a strong fi­nal sea­son from lefty John Danks. Short­stop Tyler Sal­adino is merely adept, but he could even­tu­ally make way for top prospect Tim An­der­son, who could pro­vide a mid­sea­son jolt in the man­ner Car­los Cor­rea and Fran­cisco Lin­dor propped up the Hous­ton Astros and Cleve­land In­di­ans, re­spec­tively, last year.

It’s up to the holdovers to make sure Ven­tura is around to man­age An­der­son.


A lengthy sus­pen­sion for per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs and in­jury-filled sea­sons of de­cline took some shine off Braun’s sta­tus as Mil­wau­kee’s fran­chise player. Still, his words carry some weight, and th­ese seemed pointed at team­mate Jonathan Lu­croy, who in­di­cated the club might be bet­ter off trad­ing him if it launches a re­build­ing pro­ject.

Lu­croy is a free agent af­ter 2017; Braun is signed through 2020, so he’s more in­clined to toe the com­pany line.

Still, Braun made sev­eral good points in the wake of Mil­wau­kee’s trade of start­ing short­stop Jean Se­gura to Ari­zona on Satur­day.

“We’re not break­ing up a jug­ger­naut team that has gone to the post­sea­son each of the last five years or some­thing,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal-Sentinel. “I think we’re build­ing to­ward some­thing that we’ll be able to have sus­tained suc­cess and have some im­pact play­ers.

“We’re com­pletely de­pen­dent upon our sys­tem be­ing able to pro­duce im­pact play­ers. I think that’s some­thing we haven’t done very well the last five or six years. If you look at our sys­tem right now, there are quite a few guys that have a chance to come up and be im­pact play­ers. So I look at it as an ex­cit­ing time. It will cer­tainly be chal­leng­ing at times, but I think we all have re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions head­ing into the year, and I think that helps.”

He’s not wrong — for­mer gen-

 ?? JIM BROWN, USA TO­DAY SPORTS ?? The hot seat is noth­ing new for White Sox man­ager Robin Ven­tura, who is un­der pres­sure to get off to a good start in 2016.
JIM BROWN, USA TO­DAY SPORTS The hot seat is noth­ing new for White Sox man­ager Robin Ven­tura, who is un­der pres­sure to get off to a good start in 2016.

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