For as exciting as spring training can be, it can be all sorts of boring. Between split-squad games where the starting lineup consists of guys who are sporting numbers north of 70 and the usual sound bites from the veterans (“I feel good out there, just happy to get my work in today”), there isn't always something to get excited about.
That is, unless, a former member of the team runs his mouth about how awesome his new team is, like you don't even exist anymore.
Say it isn't so, Brad Lidge!
“[The Nationals are] Probably the most talented team I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on some great teams,” he said. [Via Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post]
Next thing he'll be saying is that he never liked the Philadelphia to begin with, and that Washington is totally a better kisser, and that he doesn't even like crab fries and that he only had some of yours because he felt bad that you paid $14 for them that one time.
In all seriousness, I love when athletes make these comments, even if they don't necessarily have any truth to them. I just think it's an interesting case study into the psychology of the shifting allegiances of baseball players when they move from team to team.
It doesn't really matter if Brad Lidge (like his new manager Davey Johnson) believes that the 2012 Nats are more talented than any other teams he's played on -- be it the Oswalt/Clemens/Pettite/Biggio/Bagwell/Berkman/Beltran/Kent Houston Astros of 2004, or the Halladay/Lee/Hamels/Oswalt/Utley/Howard/Pence/Rollins/Victorino Phillies of 2011. The reason it doesn't matter is because, quite honestly, what else would he say? He's an employee of the Nationals, so naturally he is going to speak highly of them.
And in the interest of fairness, he isn't necessarily wrong. These Nationals do have a ton of talent. Between Jordan Zimmerman (a stud pitcher whose fastball was described by Cliff Lee as one of the best he's ever seen), Stephen Strasburg (who might just be the greatest young pitching prospect of all time), and this guy named Bryce Harper, the Nationals are loaded with talent. And that's not including the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Wilson Ramos, Dany Espinosa, Michael Morse, and Jayson Werth (who, contrary to popular belief, is still pretty good).
It's a pretty talented crop of players, so Lidge's comments are certainly not without merit. The bigger thing here, I think, is what “talent” actually means, and whether it translates into success, because the most talented team might not necessarily be the best team, and vice-versa.
Just think about the Phillies teams from 2005 and 2006. They were LOADED with young talent, like Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Cole Hamels, et cetera, but they weren't the best team -- not even close. The same can be said for the Miami Marlins, who continually crank out crazy-good players and are loaded with talent, but rarely compete come October.
And while it seems like we should all freak out about what Lidge said (But really, don't. It's silly to get upset over something so trivial. It's almost as silly as writing a blog post about it.), consider that the Nationals are a team loaded with young talent, and that Brad Lidge is a company man who isn't going to publicly flog the guys that sign his paychecks. If he was back on the Astros -- a team that will be lucky to win 60 games -- he'd say the same thing. Why? Because that's what players do, and we shouldn't think of a player as a turncoat because he said something nice about his current team.
So before everyone lights their Lidge jerseys on fire in effigy, let's take a deep breath and relax.