“Let’s play two.” Ernie Banks
Well, ok, he wasn’t talking about Spring Training games, but.....
Why are Spring Training games mostly seven innings this year? There’s no Minor League training camps, so teams are routinely carrying 75 players on their Spring Training rosters, and as many as 40 pitchers. And Spring Training is slightly shorter than usual this year.
It makes no sense. Even with nine inning games, regular players wouldn’t be getting enough reps to prepare for the season, and so many enthusiastic young prospects wouldn’t be getting a chance to showcase their talent or develop their skills against competition at the highest level.
Obviously, reducing their chances and reps by 22% every time you reduce the length of the game to seven innings just exacerbates the situation.
It just seems lazy. It seems disrespectful to the game. It seems to say, ”why should we be bothered to play a full game, it’s such a hassle. And so boring.”
Well those of us who love the game the most want to see it played right. And for the full length. Even in the Spring. As they used to say, anything worth doing is worth doing right. Like a bad workman, baseball has decided to cut corners.
Sure the last two innings of a Spring Training game can be pretty sloppy. It’s mostly played by guys who will not be seen on a big league field during the regular season. But baseball’s most devoted and sophisticated fans love to see these young prospects, some of whom represent the future.
For many of these prospects, the chance they get to play in Spring Training represents one of the highlights of their lives. So many of these marginal players have devoted their whole lives and energies for the long longshot of maybe making the Major Leagues. At Spring Training they want to show their team and all baseball that they deserve a shot. With so many players and so few Spring Training innings, these shots are now way too few and far between.
Remember when the Astros gave J.D. Martinez 18 PA’s in Spring Training and then decided to cut him? Eighteen PA’s this Spring seems like a ceiling, not the floor that resulted in one of the worst decisions in the History of the Astros.
I know. COVID. Shorter games protect against COVID.
Nonsense. If nine inning games are risking the spread of COVID, then seven inning games do too. Maybe science shows that COVID only spreads on a baseball field during the eighth or ninth innings, but if so, I haven’t heard about it.
And why let the managers decide the length of the game before the game starts if COVID is the real consideration? If seven innings are safe and nine innings are dangerous, then by all means play seven...every game. In the regular season too.
It comes down to this: if we feel like playing nine, we’ll play nine. If we only feel like playing seven (or even five) we’ll only play seven.
For the love of the game, play nine. What is this? Are we back in High School or something?
Those players who won’t get in the game or have left the game can go somewhere else to conduct other training. But baseball needs as many innings as possible of competitive Spring ball to prepare the 26 roster players for the regular season, and everyone else to develop and display their skills.
Willie Stargell once said:
“When they start the game, no one says, ‘work ball,’ they say ‘play ball.’”
In other words, ballplayers should play because it is fun, because they love the game. (or even two)
Baseball, stop going through the motions like you’re only in it for the money, even if you really are.