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Friday, March 18, 2016

If you're not playing to win, then don't keep score: too many exhibition games on TV.

Stipulate: spring training is way too long.

I used to wonder why they didn't just televise everything in spring training. Instead of just hearing people talk about it, why not also show it, including practice. When the talking heads are on the MLB Network, why not show players working out?

Now there are multiple games on the MLB Network every day, pushing aside the talking head shows. We hear what sounds like regular season announcers doing the games as if they were real. In fact everything seems real. There must be official scorers, because a pitch that gets past a catcher and advances a runner gets scored a past ball or wild pitch. Who the heck cares?

We hear and see stats, including the awarding of a win or loss to pitchers. Are the rules the same? How many innings must a starter go? I have no idea. I'd like it to remain a mystery.

My mid March the players appear to be ready to play the regular season games that are still at least two more weeks away. I wonder if the presence of TV cameras inspires some players to perform at a regular season level. We expect minor league players to play that way in order to win a spot on the big league roster but are players who are assured of that also diving in the field and otherwise putting themselves at unnecessary risk? The quality of play looks very real already even with fewer and fewer minor league players participating.

My view is that there should be no exhibition games. If you're keeping score, then the game should count. Or to use a more eloquent phrase that I associate with 1960 Cy Young winner Vern Law: If you're not playing to win, then don't keep score.
Photo of Vern Law
There's no reason that the regular season could not start in warm weather locations for teams from cold locations. Spring training ball parks have major league dimensions, so there's no reason that the games should not count. It's all a matter of adjusting perspective.

Start the regular season at the spring training sites. Saturday, March 14, 2015

March Madness: spring training games! Start the damn regular season already! Monday, March 16, 2015

1 comment:

cmdrsurok said...

Hitters generally only need about 2 weeks, and that amount of time seems to go down a little bit every year with the increased off-season training. Everything is for the starting pitchers. The relievers certainly don't need to be stretched, just get to a point where they can work back-to-back days. Could there be a day when the 200 inning starter goes the way of the dodo (like the 500, 400, and 300 IP guys and multi-inning relievers did before them)? Would we need a long training period when all the pitchers throw mostly 95-100 gas, one inning at a time?

Even if the nightmare above doesn't happen and several weeks are necessary, there are plenty of warm weather facilities that could host meaningful games. And the real answer comes from an unlikely source, the World Baseball Classic. It has its own issues. However, if some players need to be ready early 2 out of every 4 years (qualifiers now and main tournament next spring), why can't they be ready every year? Use the protections used there for games in March or even until mid-April. Limit pitch counts and enforce days off (which most teams do on their own now, even into April), use the expanded 40-man rosters, and they could even implement the mercy rule.

Use March for interleague or intra-conference. Limit division games until May. Use some sites in between Florida and Arizona for Grapefruit/Cactus site crossover. Use that time to schedule more international site games. If teams can figure out how to make money with "home" games (that count!) in Sydney or Tokyo, they can do the same thing in Houston, Atlanta, or even AAA sites like New Orleans or Nashville.

There are scheduling issues that are tricky with 30 teams. However, once baseball finally decides to expand to 32 teams, most of those go away and can be worked out over a long season. And if all of this would make November World Series games go away, so much the better. That is, unless it was a true World Series between the MLB champion and the Japan Series champion, but that's a discussion for another time.