When it comes to baseball, does a waistline matter?
My wife's friend keeps trying to get her to read celebrity gossip magazines, and the other day she brought a stack of them to our house. Half the content involves unflattering photos of celebs in public, leading to speculation that "so-and-so" starlet might be pregnant because she's wearing a frumpy sweatshirt on Park Avenue.
Last spring, Ryan Howard arrived at spring training pregnant. That’s what readers thought when they saw Howard’s famous photo spread in the New York Times, pictured right, then watched him heft through his first televised game. They were appalled the reigning MVP had let himself go, and suggested it had something to do with discontent over the Phillies’ paltry contract offering of $900,000. I bet it had to do with food.
And so begins another season of weight watching, as we gaze at footage from Clearwater like so much tabloid gossip hanging on the racks by the checkout line. Is it trivial, or does it foreshadow early season success?
Last season, Howard slumped, nursing a bad back leg and perhaps felt the anxiety of being an MVP. It took him over two months to close up and regain his form. On the flip side, Jimmy Rollins spent the winter working out in a newly constructed home gym, arrived in Florida lean, mean and remained steady. After the season, he was rewarded with new hardware to display in that gym. Like J-Roll, Chase Utley packed on muscle and was an MVP front-runner before John Lannan killed the buzz. Brett Myers was an exception to the rule. The right-hander shredded tons of weight, struggled early, then settled in later after regaining his spare tire. Or maybe we're making something out of nothing.
Let’s do our best impression of my wife’s friend and draw wild conclusions from photos, in this case, the photo galleries on Philly.com! Howard is in much better shape, and there have been several reports confirming that. Check out his new adidas ad; he looks like a different person. The slugger says he’s down 10-15 pounds from where he was at this point last season. Unlike Howard, Kyle Kendrick looks bigger. During the winter tour, Charlie Manuel said the 23-year-old right-hander added seven pounds of muscle to his lean frame, so that’s a good thing. Pat the Bat always looks the same. Carlos Ruiz looked trim in a couple shots. Mike Zagurski actually looks less like a Cabbage Patch doll. Myers looks like he’s down a couple pounds, and I recall reading that as well. Cole Hamels looks a tad thicker, as you would expect from a maturing 24-year-old. Since his arrival, I’ve never been impressed with Adam Eaton’s physique. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good read on the embattled right-hander based on the early footage. He looks the same, maybe? And if I look like Jamie Moyer when I'm 45, I would be delighted.
So in conclusion, this tabloid journalist has determined that none of the players are pregnant.
Roster note: Right-hander Anderson Garcia was claimed off waivers by Seattle. He was designated for assignment last week to make room for Pedro Feliz.