Milton Bradley is getting ejected every other day. Cliff Lee got suspended, but it doesn't matter anyway with his abdominal strain. Doug Fister got drilled by a line drive. Jack Hannahan won't be ready for the start of the season. All Chone Figgins does is walk and boot more balls at second base than any of us are comfortable with. Jose Lopez isn't making anyone forget about Adrian Beltre at third base, either.
Where did all the optimism go?
It shouldn't be tempered as much as it is right now. There are all sorts of reasons to be excited for this team and its potential - or at least a whole bunch of reasons to not have a drastically different opinion after the past week or two of spring training.
First of all, the injuries are getting blown out of proportion. Jeff Sullivan over at Lookout Landing did an excellent job calming nerves about the Jack Hannahan situation. If Hannahan had pulled his groin in May, I'd be shocked if people reacted like they have right now. He is a utility infielder gone for a couple weeks, and he isn't the only utility infielder the M's have. Depth is as much about having guys you can limp along with when little things pop up as having guys as good as each other. This team can limp along with whoever takes Hannahan's spot.
Copy and paste that last paragraph for the Doug Fister's little injury, though I think in the end he will be ready anyway, and I'm not sure he makes the roster even if he is totally healthy.
Cliff Lee's abdomen is more troublesome. Not only is Lee a critical piece, but it wreaks of an injury that could linger. However, have we forgotten about the 2009 Angels already? Remember how they started the year without Kelvim Escobar or John Lackey, and everyone wondered who would step up in their rotation? Then, on top of that, Nick Adenhart DIED a couple weeks into the season? Kelvim Escobar never came back for the Angels, but John Lackey did, and at the end of the year the Angels were among the best teams in baseball.
Does an abdominal strain to the number two starter sound as bad as what the Angels faced last year? I know I am glossing over significant personnel differences, but the point is that nobody had the Angels pegged as a premier team coming out of spring training last year. People (including myself) looked at their injuries and said "no way," but yet there they were. There is freedom for things to happen when games are decided on the field, regardless of what might be expected.
Lastly, here and there I see some fretting over Griffey's lack of production in the spring, and the errors accumulating at second and third base. These worries could be prophetic. I'm not going to say they don't matter. However, if we are worried about spring performances, guys like Eric Byrnes and Casey Kotchman can't be conveniently ignored. Both look pretty darn good. Their performances have as much of a chance to be prophetic as anyone else's.
It is too easy to lose sight of the big picture in spring training. Production only becomes a story when it is connected to some pre-existing assumption. People already wondered if Griffey could produce, and already wondered if the Figgins/Lopez position switch would work too. Injuries are magnified because they upset the all-important opening day roster. From a player's perspective, I don't doubt that it's a big deal to break camp with the big league ballclub. From an organizational perspective though, injuries should be assumed. Losing a guy for a week or two is unfortunate, but it happens, and it's a week or two out of a six-month season whether it happens in early April or the middle of June.
A couple weeks ago, I thought this team had a chance to win the division, and a pitching staff with the potential to carry it on a deep postseason run. Nothing has happened since then to change this team's potential. We haven't learned much about this team in the past few weeks that we didn't know a couple months ago, Cliff Lee's abdominal pull notwithstanding. That's not enough for me to lose my optimism, especially with how young the season is. There is no good reason to think much of anything different yet.