Grapefruit, Cactus, the Cubs and Tim Tebow

MLB Spring Training Cubs Tebow

Spring training baseball is well underway as the world champion Chicago Cubs begin their quest to defend their title while Cleveland, last year’s AL representative, aim to get redemption.

There have been multiple repeat champions since the World Series began in 1903, but 17 years since the last time a club won back-to-back titles. From 1998-2000, the New York Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, and New York Mets to complete a “three-peat.”

The Yanks, who own the most World Series titles ever (27) have also won at least two (and sometimes more) titles in a row six times. They also won the World Series in four straight seasons from 1936 to 1939 Then, five more in a row from 1949 through 1953.

For Major League Baseball, spring training takes place in two states: Arizona and Florida. There is the Grapefruit League (Florida) and the Cactus League (Arizona). Teams in the Grapefruit League and the city where they play are as follows:

Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista).

Baltimore Orioles (Sarasota).

Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers).

Detroit Tigers (Lakeland).

Miami Marlins/St. Louis Cardinals (Jupiter).

Houston Astros/Washington Nationals (West Palm Beach).

Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers).

New York Mets (Port St. Lucie).

New York Yankees (Tampa).

Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater).

Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton).

Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte).

Toronto Blue (Dunedin).

And out west in the Cactus League:

Chicago White/Los Angeles Dodgers (Glendale).

Cincinnati Reds/Cleveland Indians (Goodyear).

Chicago Cubs/Oakland Athletics (Mesa).

San Diego Padres/Seattle Mariners (Peoria).

Milwaukee Brewers (Phoenix).

Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies/San Francisco Giants (Scottsdale).

Kansas City Royals/Texas Rangers (Surprise).

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Tempe).

The team playing in a stadium with the largest capacity are the Cubs, taking the field at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona—which houses 15,000 fans. The smallest? The Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, home to the Toronto Blue Jays.

As of Friday morning, March 3, about anywhere between six and eight games have been played. And, the defending champions rest on the lower end, playing six to a 2-4 record. The Yankees are off to a fast start, winning seven of eight. And the Angels, who we’ve seen ripped into in this space, find themselves undefeated. Meanwhile Cincinnati, Texas and Toronto have only won one game apiece. Of course, that’s not what spring baseball is about.

Spring baseball is more about getting into baseball shape. For the players, it’s about getting their swings back into rhythm. It’s about finding out what the rookies from the minors can do as they try to make their respective rosters. One such minor- leaguer getting the most attention happens to be in the New York Mets camp. His name? Tim Tebow; perhaps you’ve heard of him. The collegiate football star turned NFL quarterback, turned MLB wannabe.

Despite sharp criticism from Shannon Sharpe last September, Tebow—who hasn’t played baseball since high school—began his journey to the majors last year. And, he’s at again this spring. Playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Tebow’s team finished last with a 13-18-1 record. Playing in 19 of those games, Tebow had 62 at-bats, hitting just .194 on 12 base hits—three of which were doubles. He added two RBI and eight walks, but struck out 20 times (or 32 percent of his plate appearances). Tebow also stole a base but got caught once as well.

Tebow has not appeared in a spring training game for the Mets thus far, and, wasn’t given an invitation to their ML camp. Based on his Fall league stats, chances of making the majors seems like a long shot.

In the mean time, we’re less than 30 days before the MLB season kicks off. And on Sunday, April 2, six teams will get the campaign going.

The Yankees will visit the Rays while San Francisco travels to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks. But in perhaps the biggest matchup of the night, the defending champions open in St. Louis to take on old friend Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals. The following day, the rest of the league gets going with one inter-league game in the mix—the Pittsburgh Pirates taking on the Red Sox in Boston.

So that leaves us with the question: “will the Chicago Cubs repeat?” Here’s a couple media sources predicting who will win the 2017 divisional races.

USA Today

American League

East: Boston Red Sox.

Central: Cleveland Indians.

West: Houston Astros.

National League

East: Washington Nationals.

Central: Chicago Cubs.

West: Los Angeles Dodgers.

Bleacher Report

American League

East: Boston Red Sox.

Central: Cleveland Indians.

West: Houston Astros.

National League

East: Washington Nationals.

Central: Chicago Cubs.

West: San Francisco Giants.

In Las Vegas, oddsmakers have placed the defending champion Cubs at the top of the heap for favorites to win it all (7/2). Boston and the Dodgers follow (9/1), with Washington (12/1) and Cleveland (14/1) next in line.

But then there are the bottom-dwellers. Teams such as the San Diego Padres (100/1), tied with Arizona, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Philadelphia. Do you believe either of those could turn the tables on the odds? As for my team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, they are 28/1 to win it all.

Here’s to baseball.

What does spring training mean to you? Which team do you believe will win it all? And, for more from Harv Aronson, check out his website!

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