The Best Thread of Your Life

Every spring, there is one constant, a telltale sign of the beginning of baseball, when people are starved for news but there just isn’t any – the “Player X is in the best shape of his life” story. Every year, without fail, certain players report to spring training having done one of the following:

1. Lost 30 pounds
2. Had laser eye surgery
3. Rehabilitated their knee/back
4. Rededicated themselves to the game
5. Found a new passion for baseball

Because these things are more interesting than a player reporting to camp in exactly the same form he was last year, the guy and his new attribute get written up in the paper. He gives some quotes about why this is his year, how it is all going to be different, and why fans should prepare for a whole new version they’ve never seen before.

Most of the the time, it turns out to be nothing. The player is what he is, and he plays just like he always has, with his new form never mentioned again as he’s struggling in July. But, I’m sure some players have made legitimate strides in their work ethic this winter, and for some, it might even pay off.

So, to the end of actually documenting the success and failure of these players, let’s crowdsource the Best Shape Of Their Lives guys. If you see a story where a player is reported to have done one of the above things, please mention it in the
comments, along with a link to support the citation. Hopefully, we can get all of the Good Shapers in one list, and then look at how they perform once the season begins.

Here’s the list, to be updated as the information from the comments is confirmed:

Ken Griffey Jr – Seattle
Jonathan Sanchez – San Francisco
Carlos Zambrano – Chicago
Geovany Soto – Chicago
Daisuke Matsuzaka – Boston
Mike Pelfrey – New York
Chipper Jones – Atlanta
Brian McCann – Atlanta
Tim Hudson – Atlanta (clearly, it’s the Braves year)
Bobby Jenks – Chicago
Delmon Young – Minnesota
David Price – Tampa Bay

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Johnny Chicago
14 years ago

“Geovany Soto showed up at the Cubs Convention in January 40 pounds lighter…some whispered out loud on Chicago talk radio, Soto was on steroids.”

“I wasn’t strong,” he said. “I was just fat.”

14 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Chicago

That’s interesting. I remember back in 2003 Javy Lopez showed up to camp having lost around 20 pounds. Then he hit 43 HR, and while no evidence has emerged, seems like a very good candidate to have received some “extra” help that season. I guess the point is that steriods don’t always result in added weight. Heck, the first player busted was a pure speed guy, not a power hitter (can’t remember the name though).

14 years ago
Reply to  Robert

It was Alex Sanchez. He must have bulked up for his 2004 and 2005 seasons, when he hit career bests of 2 HR each.