A few notes from spring training … Once upon time, Major League Baseball spring training was about men trying to get in shape who in the offseason had worked at everything from stocking shelves to driving cabs.
Today’s players own the shelves, the stores, the shopping centers and the cabs. They have personal trainers who work with them year-round in readiness for the next multi-million-dollar contract.
Spring training is now a big business, especially for the communities in which the teams play in Florida and Arizona. It’s about games, not workouts.
On March 2, games officially begin. They will not end until April 4, with the Red Sox and Yankees opening the regular season that same Sunday night in Boston.
For the Red Sox, the issue in camp is about scoring runs. Jason Bay is gone and with him go the career-high 36 homers and 119 RBIs. Can new Red Sox players Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron, with a healthy David Ortiz, fill that void?
Four of the top six run-producing teams in the AL last year were in the East. In order, they were the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Jays. Runs in this division matter.
In December, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig created a 14- member advisory committee to “review and examine all on- field issues.” He said there were no “sacred cows.”
The committee includes four managers, four current and former general managers and four club owners/presidents. Their report goes to the players’ association for review.
Issues such as the designated hitter, expanding video reviews and postseason schedules are expected to be addressed. Expect a report early in the season.
For Selig, one frustrating matter is the pace of games. The never-ending delays in last year’s World Series created by visit after visit to the mound by catchers exacerbated his concern.
Reportedly, players were fined last year for delays, especially pitchers who stood around gazing at the stars.
There will be more of that this year and an added push by the umpires to keep batters in the box, pitchers on the rubber and catchers behind the plate. It will be interesting to see if the advisory committee makes recommendations on pacing.
The performance-enhancing-drug issue is still here. Player urine testing is now under way at spring camps, but there is much discussion that human growth hormone has replaced steroids as the drug of choice.
There is no testing available for HGH and suggestions this week that blood testing be required of players for a new HGH test drew a lot of “hold on a minute” responses from every quarter.
Otherwise, “hope springs eternal,” “we all start at zero,” “this is our year,” and “spring is just around the corner” and “maybe this year the Cubs.”