Bradford: Are they really in the best shapes of their lives? We asked for the truth

Rob Bradford
February 21, 2019 - 10:19 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's too easy.

Players show up at spring training, they are asked a simple, "How are you feeling?" question and the answers proceed to roll off their tongues.

"I'm in the best shape of my life."

But are they really?

Seven years ago Bobby Valentine and his strength staff decided to put the players through a series of conditioning tests that resembled something an elementary school kid might endure while trying to get his Presidential Physical Fitness badge. For instance, there the measuring of each player's vertical leap. Ryan Sweeney won and proceeded to not hit a single home run in 63 games that 2012 season. Andrew Bailey injured his lat muscle. Moral of the story? There is no true way to define if a baseball player is in the best shape of their life other than pumping them with truth serum. So that's what we tried to do (figuratively, of course).

You might be surprised by some of the answers.

Now, it should be understood that pitchers can always lean on how their arms are working when trying to define their existence. So when Pedro Martinez puts out a tweet about how prepared these Red Sox hurlers are, it's not as if the Sox legend is purposely throwing around hyperbole.

But throwing a baseball is just part of the equation. As we found out, being in the best shape of one's life can be a subjective proposition.

What does Alex Cora think when he hears such a statement?

"A cliche. You hear them say ‘I’m in the best shape of my life,’ and you’re like, ‘Yeah …’ But Eduardo, he really is," the manager said.

Rodriguez is the one guy who many feel comfortable with painting with such a picture. "I would like to think I am," the Sox pitcher said. OK, that's one. The rest? That's another story. 

Of the nearly 20 players surveyed, there would seem to be a trend. The young guys almost seem obligated to lock in their answer with a resounding, "Yes!" when asked if they are in the best shape of their life. Bobby Dalbec. C.J. Chatham. Cole Sturgeon. And, of course, the spring training superstar Sam Travis. All politely surmised they were at the top of their physical game.

"I'm a machine," said a smiling Travis.

Then there is everyone else.

Brock Holt: "I’m sure I’ve been in better shape, but I’m going to say, 'Yes, I’m in the best shape of my life,' because that’s what we’re supposed to say."

Matt Barnes: "No. We had a month less to train and I went on my honeymoon."

Ryan Brasier: "I've never been in the best shape of my life."

Xander Bogaerts: "I'm close."

Andrew Benintendi: "Yes!"

Steve Pearce: "No. But once you get in baseball shape it’s all good. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how much weight you can lift."

Jackie Bradley Jr.: "I wouldn’t say best shape. What determines best shape? It depends, that’s my answer. It depends on what you’re talking about. Am I conditioned to run distance like I used to be like was when I was younger? No. But I’m stronger than I have ever been."

Christian Vazquez: "No. Everybody lies."

Rafael Devers: "I’m in the best shape since I’ve been in the big leagues, but not the best of my life."

Rick Porcello: "Mentally."

Nathan Eovaldi: "No. That would have been my senior year of high school."

David Price: "At 34 years old? I'm not in the best shape ever. But I will be in better shape tomorrow than I am today."

The reality is that there is no need to be in the best shape of one's life when spring training rolls around. Pearce, for instance, said he had one of his worst seasons when coming in at his strongest. "I couldn't move," he said. Then there are little things like adjusting to standing around in cleats for hours upon end. It seems simple and stupid, but this is how it is.

So next time you hear, "I'm in the best shape of my life!" just take it for what it is. An easy, breezy quote to get us through the day. It's a long two months in Florida, and an even longer Major League Baseball season. 

As Pearce said, "Ask me at the end of camp."

Fair enough.