Is MLB Spring Training Too Long, Too Short or Just Right?

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Is MLB Spring Training Too Long, Too Short or Just Right?
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

With MLB spring training ostensibly starting earlier and earlier—2013's edition eclipsing the deuces wild Feb. 22 mark—and not concluding until March 30, 2013, some fans have stridently pondered, "Why?"

Is spring training too long, too short or just right?

Compared to other sports, MLB's preseason ritual—which clocks in at 37 days—can be considered lengthy.

For instance, football plays four weeks (plus a fifth game), the NBA featured 21 days' worth of action last season and hockey generally plays for two weeks (when they're not locked out).

In terms of actual games, NFL teams play four contests, basketball has eight and the NHL between seven and eight. MLB clubs, on the other hand, play approximately 33.

Nonetheless, these numbers are misleading—after all, baseball's 162-game season far outnumbers any of the other major league's seasons.

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
In proportion to its regular season schedule, football—not baseball—plays the longest pre-season.

Instead, the ratio approach is used—for instance, MLB's 33 spring training games are equivalent to 20 percent of the MLB season. In basketball and hockey, that figure is nearly 10 percent while in football, the number is a staggering 25 percent.

And this does not even begin to address the split-squad scenario.

Unlike the other major sports, MLB employs an expansive, multi-level in-house farm system collectively known as "Minor League Baseball." From Rookie League to Triple-A, all prospects have a realistic shot at getting the chance to play in a bona fide Major League spring training game—especially during split-squad days and thanks to the grand March tradition of mass substitutions.

For squads with extensive personnel en route to the show—and those in the midst of completing severe roster overhauls—spring training may not be nearly long enough.

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With press conferences out of the way, some teams enjoy a lengthier Spring Training to welcome newcomers and breed team chemistry.

After all, the new-look Los Angeles Dodgers have to cut someone after 2012's spending spree and after all that movement, the club certainly doesn't need to be rushed.

The boys in blue also need time to develop that ever-valuable chemistry, which, according to slugger Matt Kemp, "comes from playing with one another...Just stick together and we'll be fine."

Meanwhile, foes of such teams—such as the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants—would much rather see spring training come to a rapid conclusion. In a pointed barb, first baseman Brandon Belt said, "You can't buy chemistry."

Momentum, too, is a valuable commodity—just ask the Detroit Tigers—and as March trudges by, that precious intangible begins to wane.

For others yet, spring training wins are too good to pass up. The fact that the Kansas City Royals are still undefeated this spring prompted MLB's Cut4 to pit the Cactus League's darling 9-0-1 club against hockey's 19-0-3 Chicago Blackhawks, daring to ask, "who [do] you think will remain loss-less longest?"

And then there's that pesky injury bug.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Another angle: Does a lengthy spring contribute to greater injury risk?

Yes, the New York Yankees are now scrambling in the wake of Curtis Granderson's fractured forearm, which may lead some to invoke the straw man—yet completely logical—argument that more games equals more opportunities to get hurt.

Yet by a similar token, Granderson's injury, occurring early in the spring training period, will give the Yankees sufficient time to figure out the next course of action.

Similarly, a longer spring gives way to more baseball talk, wild rumors and fantastic speculation—Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Granderson and Ryan Braun will all be suspended for PED use?

Perhaps the same way Johnny Damon will return to the Bronx (Wait—he won't?).

Truly impassioned baseball devotees surely appreciate extended diamond discussions the way pro football fanatics gravitate towards ESPN's lengthy NFL Live dedications throughout that sport's offseason, except that, you know, baseball games are actually being played throughout the month of March.

Love it or hate it, MLB's spring training is a preseason like none other—one that for some may be too long, for others too short, but for still others, just right.

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