Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spring Training: Time to Cut it Short

Soon, Major League clubs will converge to Arizona and Florida for their annual rite of passage - the start of spring training. Each spring, all 30 clubs approach spring training with hope, optimism, and the dream of postseason glory. Originally, spring training was a platform for ballplayers to get into shape for the upcoming season. It wasn’t long ago when players had to supplement their income in the offseason by having seasonal jobs. In doing so, physical fitness and staying in shape wasn’t the highest priority for ball players. Now, being a professional Major League ball player is a full time job, and players are diligent in staying in top physical form to be ready for spring training and a 162-game schedule.

This year, pitchers and catchers will report on February 14th, and then the full squad reports four days later. On February 26th, most clubs, including the Giants will start their spring training schedule. What entails soon after are 40 games in the Cactus League, including split squad games, followed by another three games in the Bay Area for the the Bay Bridge Series against Oakland. All told, we’re looking at 43 spring training games before the season even starts. Now, we know what the club owners and front office folks are going to say to substantiate the high number of games. We want to evaluate our 40-man roster, and our minor league prospects, blah, blah. However, the real truth is, the clubs do not want to give up the extra revenue that is generated from spring training. Spring training in recent years have become a big business for everyone involved. Which includes hotels, restaurants, bars, golf courses, rental car agencies, and so on.

No one wants to kill the golden goose. But the question remains, is it necessary to have so many spring training games? Players have  never been more well equipped, and have never been in better shape. The purpose of spring training has diminished, and players and coaches themselves have even expressed that it’s just too long. With Major League Baseball on the verge of making some historical changes to the game (Buster Posey rule, instant replay), isn’t time for them to curtail the spring training schedule too?  If we had our way, the spring training schedule would cap out at 30 games - that’s more then enough games to evaluate talent and form your 25-man roster. Let’s save the players for the regular season.

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