MLB Column: When does baseball start to matter?

Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor celebrates after scoring on a one-run double hit by Michael Brantley in the tenth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Tuesday, April 11, 2017, during opening day in Cleveland. The Indians won 2-1 in 10 innings. (Tony Dejak/ AP)

Starting in March, I always hear people talking about how “spring training doesn’t matter.” The games don’t count toward any significant record. Players don’t play full games. Guys are testing new positions.

Then we get to Opening Day. The regular season is underway, and your team has lost four in a row. “It’s only April this doesn’t matter,” they say.

So when does baseball actually start to matter? Having a 162-game season certainly allows for some breathing room, but as far as I’m concerned, the season starts to matter as soon as the teams head south and start training.

Maybe I’m being a little picky about wording here. Matter? Technically, no. Spring training records have no significance, as they don’t necessarily represent your regular season lineup or rotation.  What does matter is seeing the progress players made in the offseason—who gained weight, who gained muscle, whose bat or arm carried over from last year.

As far as the regular season goes, every game matters from Opening Day through the postseason, if your team is lucky enough to get there. As each month goes by, poor outings, bad defensive plays and hitting lulls become more stressful and allow for more scrutiny. If Steven Wright’s knuckleball isn’t working in his second start, I’m not writing it off just because it’s still early in the season. I understand there are kinks to be worked out, and adjustments to be made. But nobody likes to see their starting pitcher give up four home runs in two innings no matter what time of year it is.

Some fans seem to be selective when talking about when games start to matter. If your team is off to a garbage start and hasn’t made it close to .500, you’ll likely toss around the “early in the season” excuse. But if your team is undefeated after facing an easy schedule, you’re considering booking your tickets to the World Series already.

The first month of the regular season obviously doesn’t entirely determine the fate of your team’s year. Some playoff teams will get swept in April, while some teams on top right now won’t even come close to sniffing the postseason.

You may not need to sit on the edge of your seat for every game at the start of the season (this is a reminder to myself), but it would be wrong to write off bad starts or bad games simply for that reason. That’s one of the many beauties of baseball and the long season it puts us through. Entire division standings can easily flip-flop multiple times in a season, which is a perfect example as to how much every game matters, regardless of the time of year.


Molly Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mary.burkhardt@uconn.edu.