With Sunday Night Baseball set to kick off this Easter Sunday and Opening Day on Monday, you’ve probably heard that statement a lot lately. You also might have heard it six weeks ago, because that’s when pitchers and catchers began reporting to Spring Training. Teams reported as early as February 18th, which has become the norm for MLB.
Then a few days later position players arrive … then a few days later they have their first official full workout … then a week later they begin a MONTH worth of games. A team’s best player MIGHT play in half those games and try and rack up 30-something at bats.
If you haven’t caught on by now, the point is that Spring Training is too long.
David Ortiz, who recently said that he doesn’t like Spring Training (before correcting himself and saying he was sitting out due to “dehydration”), is a prime example. The guy seems to hit .050 every spring and then has no problem batting .500 for the first couple weeks of the season when it means something. Miguel Cabrera has appeared in eight Spring Training games so far this season after returning from offseason surgery. A-Rod has appeared in just over half of the Yankees’ Spring Training games despite not having played since 2013. Safe to say he should have some rust to shake off.
Sure, spring is a great time for the young guys to prove themselves. But come on, for the most part, every team knows the players they’re going to be carrying onto their Major League roster. And if they don’t, I’m not proposing Spring Training go away all together, they can still get a look at intriguing prospects in half the games. If a team decides they made a mistake after the season begins, guess what? Call the player up to the majors.
So the older players don’t need six weeks of Spring Training, and the younger guys don’t need six weeks of Spring Training … so why the hell do we have it then?
Sure, it’s a nice little vacation to Florida or Arizona. After this winter I wouldn’t complain if I were told to go down to Fort Meyers for six weeks. But players themselves will tell you it’s too long, that they don’t see the point, that after two weeks they’re ready for the season to start.
It’s nice to see a player produce strong numbers, but at the same time, no one puts too much weight on a Spring Training performance whether it’s good or bad. So, basically, we don’t really learn anything during this six-week span since we gather statistics that no one places extreme value on from players who probably don’t want to be there.
Maybe one day MLB will take action and shorten Spring Training, but doesn’t this remind you of everything else in baseball that takes too long? MLB takes forever to get with the times – they are finally beginning to scratch the surface of shortening games. If you think I’m spending my summer nights tuning into four-hour games on television or in person, you’re crazy. I suppose it takes time to get ready for a 162 game season (probably something else MLB should look to shorten), but it certainly doesn’t take six weeks.
Baseball has come a long way since it was “America’s Past-time,” – not necessarily in the wrong direction, but by refusing to adapt and not taking any direction – and it has a long way to go if it ever wants to return to that status.
I’m happy baseball season is here. There’s a lot that I enjoy about it. But if MLB ever wants to be the league it once was in the eye of the younger fan, change is in order.
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