We’re at that point in MLB’s preseason where everyone is ready for games to start.
OK, everyone except pitchers. Position players, broadcasters, fans; we’re all ready for games that mean something.
It’s those darn pitchers needing more time than anyone else to get all stretched out. At this point, most of the starters are up to five innings, give or take. So close. (Starting pitchers are expected to go six to seven innings–teams track “quality starts” in which the pitcher goes at least six innings, giving up no more than three runs–before they hand the game over to the relievers.) That means they need another start or two to get themselves fully ready, and we get to sit through another week and a half of preseason games.
I’ll spare you the fond memories* of “the good old days” when pitchers routinely pitched 2,000 innings every year and teams expected to get through the entire 308 game season with no more than two pitchers.
* Not my memories. I may be a curmudgeon of a certain age, but but I can’t remember the start of the “modern era,” whether you date that to 1876, 1893, 1900, or 1920.
Those memories are usually coupled with assertions that modern teams are too careful of their pitchers’ arms and blame for the current epidemic of season- and career-ending surgeries on under-work. I don’t buy the argument–but I digress.
Whether pitchers are pitching too much, not enough, or just in the wrong way to preserve their arms, I can’t help but wish they could get ready a little faster.
So in that spirit, how about a modest tweak to the process in the interest of starting the season a little sooner?
By definition, there are players who get ready faster than the average, and those who need more time. That doesn’t just apply to pitchers, but to all positions. Let’s take advantage of that. Let’s move Opening Day up a week, to the last week of March instead of the first week of April. At the same time, keep Spring Training going for the same amount of time, allowing it to overlap with the season by a week. During that week, players on the 40 man roster can move freely between the Spring Training team and the Real Games team.
Sound wacky? Maybe so, but it does offer a couple of advantages over the current schedule in addition to starting meaningful baseball sooner. It offers additional impetus for schedule-makers to put early games in locations with warm climates or indoor ballparks, reducing the chances of losing games to snowouts. And, by ending the season a week earlier, it reduces the odds of the postseason sliding into November.
Imagine a World Series game in New York with a blizzard coming in. The mayor closes the subways. Sound like fun to you?