Why MLB Spring Training Is the Silly Season
Is there more wasted energy at this time of year than spring training? Other than an an IRS appeal, I mean.
For six torturous weeks, hundreds of well-conditioned athletes go through the motions in 30-something games that mean absolutely zero, and their greatest challenge is to...stay awake?
As one Pittsburgh Pirates veteran told me last spring, “The game isn't like it was decades ago. We have our own workout programs in the off-season, and almost all of us are in good physical condition when we get here.”
In other words, if spring training was lopped in half, only the bean-counters would know the difference.
Yes, Sluggo, this is all about the money.
“It doesn't take position players more than a couple weeks to get their rhythm and timing down,” the player went on to say. “If you're a pitcher, you may need another week or two to stretch out your arm. But five weeks? That's way too much.”
That's not the only reason why spring training is the silly season.
Here's the short list:
15. Hope spring's eternal in training camp. Yeah, right. The truth is, about three of every four teams have been eliminated from World Series contention already. Bovada lists the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees as the only teams with better than 7-to-1 odds to win it all.
14. Can you think of anything that quickens the pulse like a split-squad game? Me, neither.
13. Players, managers and general managers who make predictions for their teams that are miles from reality.
12. Manny Ramirez is there. Again.
11. A lot of time is spent on fundamentals, but when the regular season starts and all you see are missed bunts, botched pickoffs and 20-second rundowns. Then there's Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett, who will be sidelined for two months after he fouled a pitch off his face.
10. People travel hundreds and even thousands of miles to see their teams get beat by the Yankees, something they can witness back home in a few more weeks.
9. Remember when position battles were a reason to follow spring training? Because of long term contracts, they're few and far between now. Veterans focus on two things mostly -- their tans and NCAA Tournament brackets.
8. Players with football numbers on their backs. Seriously, I'll have beers with Megan Fox before they make an Opening Day roster.
7. The Astros invited 61 players to training camp this spring. There would have been more, of course, but Joaquin Andujar and Tuffy Rhodes had previous engagements.
6. The games are more bor-r-r-r-r-ing than an intentional walk. (My solution: Have Ozzie Guillen manage every one. The Miami Marlins skipper actually got the heave-ho on Monday afternoon.)
5. Parking. In most cases, space is limited and prices are outrageous. The funny thing is, if you wait a few weeks, they'll pay you to park there for a minor league game.
4. Concession prices. They're worse than the parking costs.
3. Ticket prices. They're worse than the concession prices. According to SeatGeek, the average ticket for a Boston Red Sox game will set you back 58 big ones.
The Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays will soak you for even more. And you're lucky if the regulars play five innings.
2. Individual statistics don't mean squat. A guy can hit .960 and not improve his chances to head north with the team.
Even managers and general managers will tell you that they pay more attention to the, uh, scenery than the numbers because of the quality of competition or lack thereof.
1. Team records mean very little, if anything. Of the 11 teams that won at least 55 percent of their games, guess how many went on to earn playoff berths?
The team with the best Grapefruit League record of all? It was none other than Minnesota Twins, who were so prepared, so jacked up for the regular season that they lost only 99 games.
Kind of makes you wonder how many games they would have lost without spring training, doesn't it?
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