Four Corners: Should baseball reduce length of spring training?

March 21, 2011

It's about money

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

There's a familiar refrain that has been heard around the majors for at least the last couple of decades.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has been singing it this week, wondering why so many players get hurt when they're in better shape than ever. "Nobody did sit-ups 20 years ago, and nobody tore intercostals and obliques,'' Roenicke said. "There were a few but not many. You come (into camp) in shape. So you think it would happen less now, but it's happening more.''

Very few good things happen in spring training. But fans love to look forward to baseball season, so stadiums get bigger and bigger and the spring schedule gets longer and longer. Players should never need more than six weeks of camp. But it's hard to walk away from revenue, so teams put players at risk more often than they should.

A month is enough

Steve Gould, Baltimore Sun

Unless a player is a young guy soaking up big league instruction, an old guy striving to prove he's got something left or a fringe major leaguer trying to carve out a spot on a team with holes on its roster, six-plus weeks of spring training is gratuitously long.

Even in those cases, four weeks should be plenty of time for a manager to figure out whether said young guy, old guy or fringe guy is going to make the cut. Sure, pitchers need more time than hitters and fielders to get ready, but how much more meaningful evaluation is being done in the last two weeks?

Meanwhile, the risk of injury is ever-present. There's no point in giving players more chances to hurt themselves in meaningless games. When's the last time you saw someone reveling in winning the Grapefruit League pennant?

Every day can count

Jeff Schuler, The Morning Call

Ask the major league veteran who has been through at least a half-dozen springs and has a roster spot secured, and the answer will be an unequivocal yes.

Ask the youngster trying to catch on, or the borderline veteran hoping to hang on, or the career minor leaguer hoping to get on a roster, and they'll probably say every day is another opportunity to catch someone's eye.

Ask those team executives who have seen spring training morph into a financial windfall, and they'll say it's fine the way it is.

But the time has come and long gone when spring training was for players to work themselves into playing shape after their offseason jobs (quick, name a major league player who has an offseason job). These days, if they want to keep those six- and seven-figure paychecks coming, they spend the winter staying in shape. So trimming two weeks or so sounds fine.

Pitchers need time

Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times

Every time I'm asked this question I think back to 1995, my first year on the baseball beat. Teams went through a regular six-week spring training with replacement players, and when the strike was settled, the big leaguers reported to camp in early April for an abbreviated, three-week spring.

I did not hear one Angels player complain that he didn't have enough time to prepare for the season. In fact, many said three weeks of spring training was just about right for position players. The problem is pitchers do need a little more time to gradually increase their pitch counts.

Most players begin extensive offseason workout regimens in early January, and teams could design throwing programs for pitchers to follow in February. They could then report a week or so later than they do now.

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