Monday, March 11, 2013

The Never Ending Baseball Season

Why is it such a big deal when pitchers aren't ready for the first round of bullpen sessions?  Why do so many people panic when the shortstop needs an extra day or two before appearing in a game?

Spring training has included less and less training as the years have gone on.  Players are expected to arrive in camp in the best shape of their lives.  If the official report date is February 15, they better be there on February 5.  Players end up spending upwards of two months at the team facilities before six months of regular season baseball.  And the sooner they arrive at the complex, the sooner they're expected to be ready for the season.

Baseball season is already a grind, marathon, and handful of other clichés.  The six month regular season wears on even the best players and the extra month for playoff teams is obviously an additional test.  The demand to come early to spring training isn't always beneficial.  The elongation of spring training is especially exaggerated this year with the World Baseball Classic and certain veterans' routines show just how much spring training is actually needed.

LaTroy Hawkins didn't appear in an actual game until March 8.  Last year, David Wright missed most of the Mets spring training games.  David Wright made it to Opening Day and Hawkins is on track to make it to Opening Day as well.  For players that have secure roster spots there is more than enough time to get ready for the season.  Pitchers don't want to throw too many innings and hitters don't want to take too many swings in games that don't matter.

Spring training has about 1/5 of the games of the regular season.  Add in the first few weeks of workouts and the extra workouts from early arrivals and there is more than enough time to be ready for the season.  Missing a handful of games or starting a few days late isn't going to ruin anybody's regular season.

At this point players are training year round.  It has almost gotten to the point where less training goes on during spring training than during the offseason.  Conditioning schedules are built around individual and official report dates and team workout schedules.  Players that actually rely on spring training to get in shape are criticized for coming into camp overweight or unprepared.  Spring training has turned into a winter long process with the formal camp only being the end of months of preparation.

There was a time when players weren't expected to be ready to throw a bullpen session or take a round of batting practice at the drop of a hat.  2013 is well past that time.  Players are in shape year-round and simply don't need two months of formal spring training.  They get their reps without formal workouts so the uniform is a small change in how they get ready.

Most players are going to be ready for the season regardless of small interruptions to spring training.  It's more important to take the extra time during the days that don't count in order to be there for those that do.  So the next time a player misses a day or even a week of spring training games remember their three-hit day in July is more important than any amount of hits in March.

Let's Go Mets!

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