Going All Out in Spring

I had a coach in high school who used to hate the phrase “practice makes perfect.” He didn’t believe in it and didn’t want us to believe in it either.

That’s because his philosophy was “perfect practice makes perfect.” And he was right. It doesn’t do you a lot of good if you hit 1000 golf balls on the range if every time you do it you’re swing is wrong. All you’ve done is practice a bad swing.

I thought of this piece of advice when watching the conversation take hold after Cameron Maybin‘s injury. No one is happy of course that it happened. But the unhappiness soon gave way to a “why did this happen” question. Many cast blame on Cameron Maybin himself, which I thought was an interesting way to look at it.

There were two distinct camps within the “Blame Cameron” tent. First, there were those (few I hope) who questioned Cameron Maybin’s desire and saw this injury as yet another injury that would allow Maybin to keep collecting checks while actually not playing. The Vocal Minority took these people rightfully to task.

The other camp has a much more nuanced and reasoned argument. That was, that Maybin, with a history of injuries, just coming off basically a lost year, who has publicly stated his desire to be more cautious in the OF, had no business diving for a ball in the first week of March. This argument dovetails into Avenger’s point (eyewitness accounts!) which was that Maybin had no business going for that ball in the first place. He’s probably right but I’m not sure it ultimately matters.

And here’s why. Maybin was going to dive in Spring. Whether it was on that play or another, it was going to happen. So really, if you’re upset with Maybin for diving on THAT play because it caused an injury, what you are saying is that Maybin should NEVER dive as it could always lead to an injury.

But then you are taking Maybin’s threat as a defender away from him. What makes Maybin such a dynamic player and defender is his speed and ability to get to balls that most players can’t. That type of playing style includes playing with reckless abandon…to a point. To ask him to no longer do that is to limit the kind of player the Padres saw fit to extend when he first arrived in San Diego.

Perfect practice makes perfect. You don’t take it easy in Spring for fear of injury anymore than you do in the regular season. Guys should be sliding into bases, pitchers should be throwing fastballs as they would in April, catchers should be stopping balls in the dirt. Because all of these things require practice to get better.

But not just practice. Perfect practice.

Diving for baseballs is a skill. Spring Training is a time for practicing skills. It makes no sense to say that Maybin shouldn’t be diving in March if your expectation is for him to dive in April. Diving for balls is what Maybin does. It unfortunately comes with a level of risk. Unfortunately, it’s a level of risk that Maybin has yet to figure out how to mitigate.

UPDATE: Corey Brock reported last night that Maybin and the Padres medical staff have decided against surgery, putting Maybin’s timetable to return from 2-3 months to 4-6 weeks. Here’s hoping that’s true.


I write on Fridays and when the feeling strikes. You can always find me on Twitter @LeftCoastBias where I’ll be stressing over the University of Arizona’s seed/bracket/health/chances this March and desperately avoiding spoilers for The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

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