It marks the time, Spring Training does. Like cleaning, bunnies, Spring Break, matzot, candy and eggs, showers and flowers, graduations, and renewal, it lets us know that the story is about to begin again. Winter is a time of waiting, but the wait is almost over.
That baseball has an affinity to the calendar is not a particularly unique idea. We're all more than familiar with Bart Giamatti's statement that the game is "designed to break our heart." In the same way that winter is associated with the end of the dream, spring is seen as the renewal.
Spring Training is a time for every fan to hope that this will be the year, and this year it's a particularly salient fantasy for Diamondbacks fans. Not only are the D-backs coming off a division win, and not only did they make moves that might address some needs, but they also play in a division that did not seem to get appreciably better. Imagine being a fan in the NL East; two of the teams, the Phillies and Braves, were already primed for the postseason, and two others, the Natinals and Marlins, made major moves to compete.
Much a baseball season is insular. It doesn't particularly matter on most days what the other teams do as long as your team wins. Even on days they lose, that particular day is unlikely to have much effect by itself. Yet there are moments when it matters what the other teams do. As the season progresses, our reference points changes to the point where the last month or week seem significantly more important.
So if we follow the theory that as the season compresses, the importance of what other teams do also increases, then it should seem that Spring Training means we wouldn't care hardly at all about potential rivals. Yet if anything this is one of the prime times to analyze the rest of the league, because the fantasy of a perfect season isn't complete without considering the hurdles that might exist along the way.
As I noted above, it's hard to look at the division and see any team as having drastically changed for the better since 2011. Knowing the NL West, however, it would be foolish to believe that anything will stay the same. The Padres have spend the past couple seasons shedding their best pieces with the hope of tomorrow, the Rockies are still looking for pitching and overpaid for Cuddyer. The Dodgers were dangerous at the end of 2011, and I do believe they will be better this year. They might be a team to watch out for, especially once the ownership drama ends. The Giants didn't really do anything to get better, but it's hard to count them out with the great pitching they have.
I'm sure someone more qualified than I, or at least someone with more time, will write up a larger analysis predicting each of the other NL West teams end performance. So instead I turn the floor over to you, the reader, who might have an opinion. Any storylines this spring that particularly catch your attention?