Blow UP Spring Training by Bob Ryan

Spring Training…the rite of starting a new year….well..not exactly…it’s starting the PRACTICE for the new year. While results may be kept some place…probably only by agents and MLB management….everyone knows that this is “practice”.  The players are elevating their skills, stamina, practice time while decreasing on their weight, public appearances and amount of leisure time.   And…..it’s been this way for a long, long time….say 100 years! BLOW IT UP!

I think that it’s far too long…originally, major league baseball players were paid slightly above the “average Joe”…take a look …looking way back….then to recent days..

…..in the 1920’s, the AL team salaries looked like this on opening day 2019

Boston Red Sox, $93,475; New York Yankees, $91,330; Chicago White Sox, $88,461

Detroit Tigers, $81,433;Cleveland Indians, $78,913; St. Louis Browns, $63,000

Washington Senators, $63,000;Philadelphia A’s, $42,000  (25 players per team)..btw..Connie Mack..oft revered now as a baseball pioneer…was the owner of the Phil A’s and was known for is low budget(he was the owner AND the manager)….I’m trying to be nice here. Check out his 1920 pay scale…ugh

Average for the AL per player in 1920–$ 3323  the average working salary  in 1920 was $1236. I have to assume that the NL was comparable to the AL in salaries in 1920.

….at 1950, Joe Average’s median income was around $3000, MLB players were about $12,300

Soooo……a Major league Player to that point was 3x or 4x the working guy.  He felt compelled to work in the off season.  Many sold cars, insurance, owned restaurants, etc. The players stayed busy “making a buck” because …while their pay was excellent for the time….they realized that their careers would end in the early part of their life and that this money was not enough to sustain them for the remainders of their life.

….once Marvin Miller opened the flood gates to enormous salaries in 1975, the income discrepancy had a dramatic difference between MLB players & the working guy.

During the 1980, the avg income in MLB was $143,000. 1980 avg for working guy $17,757

It keeps jump exponentially for MLB players….by 1990 it was $597,000, in 2000 it was $1,895 000 and so on & and so on…two things here…the average is elevated substantially by the highest paid players receiving  multi-hundred million dollar contracts so the average is skewed somewhat. I was unable to find the median income (the middle point income) for the MLB. Btw…the current minimum is over $ 555,000

….so what’s the point with all these pay numbers….MLB players DON’T need to work in the off season in jobs away from baseball any longer. Their FULL time..FULL year….job is baseball.

…With that supposition, baseball players should take a short time off after the season. Then, beginning preparing for the individual skills required for the next season with a trainer, batting instructor, nutritionist, fitness guru, whatever it takes to begin playingat full speed  when spring training opens up. Let the team batting coach watch your swings on-line…. or, your pitching delivery on-line…or fly out to work out in front of him.

Spring training should be 4 weeks….TOTAL…1 week practice, each day it’d be 9-12, 1-5 to review the team skills  (relays, bunt situations, cutoffs, run downs, etc) for a good part of the day.  Some part of the day (maybe afternoons) focus on the individual skills. 3 weeks of games with additional practice in the mornings.  Play tons of B games for the young players, maybe even DH for them. Don’t pretend that most of these 20, 21 year old guys are actually candidates to make the team…cut us a break…who are you kidding?

…when a player reports, he should be given a physical exam and an exam of his bat speed, running ability, throwing ability, eye test (great batters have tremendous eyesight) and pitching test. If he fails the physical part of the exam …not rehabbing injuries…his contract becomes null & void …like the NFL. Common sense does still prevail….if a player had an extensive surgery….that the team knew about & sanctioned….it would be reasonable to expect some of those type players to be incapacitated….e.g. alex Reyes. Not like Ozuna & Martinez coming to camp without their arms being “ready”. If it wasn’t ready…their contract could be voided by the team.

….Further, I believe a totally different approach is demanded of pitchers. Currently, pitchers come to camp, throw 30-40 pitches in the 1st week. I would expect pitchers to ARRIVE at camp being able to throw 100 pitches.  From that point on…build them up to 140 or even 150 pitches.  NO……I don’t expect them to pitch 150 pitches a game…but…if you ALWAYS stop at 100 pitches….guess what….your arm will begin to always get tired and weaker at 100 pitches. I was never a professional player….but even at high school level….an athlete OVER prepared for their sport …swung a bat more, shot more baskets, ran around the track more, etc. So.. this isn’t rocket science.

…in the exhibition season (3 weeks)….play the top 30-35 players only…they should play games 5x a week…this isn’t a vacation as it once was….I’m aware of a former Cardinal player whose children attended schools in StL….he’d pull them out for a couple weeks of spring training because “they could spend time together in the afternoons”…..spring training should be a player fighting for a spot..either on the team or in a starting position.

Thus far, it may seem as if I’m laying it all on the players….the managers/coaches would also have full 8 hour days. Spring training should be more like a “boot” camp than a trip to the lake J

As usual, money plays a part in spring training.  MLB teams …at least some of them….are drawing decent sized crowds to their games. Apparently, Boston sold out all of their home games in Florida (it’s a replica of Fenway). The league draws over 4 million fans to exhibition games every year since 2015. Other teams drawing well are the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers…..gee…seems like the rich get richer, heh?

Blowing up an arm….you’ll recall my warnings about Brandon Morrow’s work load in the 2017 post season for the Dodgers.  He pitched in 14 post season games for Lain 2017….last year, after the Cubs signed him to a “nice” contract, his arm went dead after 35 games.  It’s still not doing well this spring. Morrow will be 35 years old in July….an veteran who went to the pen after being a starter while compiling 334 appearances and almost 900 MLB innings can’t be abused in that way and not expect some repercussions.

Blowing up the pay-scale….In an effort to prevent the “big” teams from dominating the free agent market, the MLB instituted the luxury tax.  The luxury tax threshold this year is $206m. If eclipsed by a team for 3 straight years (like the Dodgers did in recent years) the team is required to pay a 50% tax on every dollar they spend over the limit. The Dodgers experienced this “tax” recently and then pulled back from over-the-top free agency…at least temporarily….now the Nationals are facing the same dilemma as they consider adding Craig Kimbrel and/or Dallas Keuchel.

Early Cardinal reactions to spring training….

….Ozuna & Martinez arm problems are disconcerting. Neither seemed to do much to get the arm issue resolved in the off –season. I think Ozuna has already “checked out” of  the Lou and is drooling as he waits to become a free agent at the end of 2019….I guess he doesn’t understand that teams will elevate or …lower….their offers depending upon his production.

…Keeping in mind the Ozuna “issue”, Jose Martinez is getting more positive ink than Bryce Harper in the Post.  Every 2nd or 3rd day, he gets a feature. It seems to me that the Cards… oops Post-Dispatch…..want the fans to be ready to accept Martinez as an every-day type guy.

….Haven’t heard much about Paul DeJong and Kolton Wong. To me…it’d be good for the team if each of them played 140+ games….no one plays 150+ any more, do they?…if they play that often…a) they are healthy   b) they are performing

…Harrison Bader continues to struggle hitting the slider in Florida. Throw him sliders in half of his batting practice pitches. His defense is terrific, we need just “some” hitting.

….Starting rotation still seems thin to me…btw…free agent starters are cheaper now than in June or July..

Basketball hysteria!!!

It’s a great time of year for College and High School basketball….you’ve all been following your favorite teams or your favorite underdogs… some thoughts…

….on the women’s side of basketball…..Mizzou’s Lady Tigers (23-11)should get a post-season bid after finishing 5th in the SEC regular season schedule. Losing in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament to #1 seed, Mississippi State 71-59 should not hurt their chances. I was fortunate to see Sophie Cunningham play as an underclassman @ Rock Bridge HS (in Columbia). She was the star of her talented team then. She just became the all-time leading scorer in Mizzou Women Basketball. Currently Cunningham has scored 2157 points. She broke the record established way back in 1985. That is surprising because in 1985 ,Women’s basketball wasn’t played at the level that it is now.

.….maybe it’s my imagination…or just me….but since the phony class scandal @ N.Carolina and the shoe scandal @ Duke…I’m not as interested in either program as I once was.

….I’ll miss Barry Hinson who resigned as SIU-C’s coach after their last loss. He reminded me of Charlie Spoonhower….often saw the funny side of things, won basketball games, kept it simple for the players.

…on the Missouri High School side of things…the Yankees of Girls Basketball, Incarnate Word Academy will snatch their next State Trophy next weekend. It doesn’t seem to matter who the opposition is for the Red Knights. Coach Dan Rolfes works very hard, drives his staff and works his players for constant improvement and onto excellence,  expectations are set high and met. This year’s team is 28-2. Last weekend they avenged an earlier loss to Parkway North in the STATE Quarterfinal 60-52.  Marissa Warren, is 1 of 4 Knights scoring in double figures, and is leading the team at a 14.2 clip. Warren also leads the team in assists and steals and is 3rd in rebounding. Other players scoring over 10ppg are Kiki Britzmann, Kate Rolfes, and Rickie Woltmann.  Woltmann tops the team in rebounds also while Rolfes’ 3 point baskets are the most on the roster. Incredibly, this will be the 10th straight year in the Final Four for Coach Rolfes. IWA took home the top prize in 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010….their records go far beyond that point…but you get the idea!

….on the other side of the coin, making their 1st trip EVER to the Final Four – under Head Coach Bryan Turner on the boys side are the St. Mary’s Dragons. SM had appeared in only two STATE Quarterfinal games (last year and 1967)prior to Saturday’s game. The Dragons were under the radar all year. Sure… everyone had heard about this guard, named Yuri Collins, going to St Louis U next year but Collins had shoulder surgery that postponed his arrival on the court this year. The Dragons, without Collins, started slowly. They were 3-5 on Dec 15 after losing to conference foe, Tolton Catholic (Columbia, MO). Btw…Tolten has some more Porters coming along for Mizzou. Anyway…SM’s conference is largely overlooked by most observers. Probably,  because of its design and size. These are mid-sized High schools. The AAA conference large division is a regional conference. It has SM (South City), Borgia (Washington, MO), St Dominic (O’Fallon, MO), Cardinal Ritter (North City) and Tolten Catholic (Columbia, MO).  It is a talented basketball conference. SM is going to STATE. Borgia won district and Ritter & Tolten dropped their district championship games. Ritter went toe-toe with Vashon in the title game. Needless to say, SM was a huge underdog against Hillsboro (23-4) in the Sectional. The Dragons speed was far too much for the Hawks as SM won 95-46. In the STATE Quarterfinal, Cape Central 26-3 had lost their 3 games by a grand total of 10 points…they were good, very good. SM fell behind 13-2 but used some pressure defense and Yuri to come back. In the 2nd half, it was all Yuri as he scored 31 for the game  with 10 assists and really “ran the show” as Dragons won 68-62. Donovan Parker had an amazing 9 blocks in the game.  Noah Hamilton snatched 5 steals and knocked down 4 consecutive FT late in the game. One never knows about the Final Four but for the Dragons .. they’ve already  broken the barrier to the Final Four.

….well…..thanks for making it to the bottom and not “blowing up” my blog J

Comments

  1. Thanks, Bob, for the high school update. I saw the St. Mary’s game vs Hillsboro, wow! They were sensational, flying around the court, making threes and Yuri is fantastic!, so explosive, Travis Ford was there and he had to very pleased. And I liked their “Southside Catholic” uniforms, my Dad wore those for the undefeated prep league championship team in 1941.
    I also caught the IWA-Parkway North game. IWA used their height and built up a late 17 point lead but North hung in there and began hitting 3’s (3 in a 90 second span) to pull within 4, great game. There are two super girls teams in Mo. this year, IWA and the 115 wins in a row Strafford, a 3A school near Springfield with a great player, Haley Frank, heading to Mizzou. I would love to see these two play each other but alas it will never happen. Big 4A and 5A weekend down in Springfield, good luck to the St. Louis teams.
    Joe W

  2. Multiple Readers says:

    Baseball is just a business now but it does still have many followers. Owners and players of today’s game are very different from yesteryear players and owners. It is still entertaining and a big draw for the loyal fans and those who just go to games to be in the festivities with friends. Many fans can’t afford to take their family to games due to the cost of tickets. When will it end
    Good luck to the Dragons next weekend in Springfield
    LD

    Very cool! KN

    Great insights as always. However, I disagree on one point. Ozuna will get his money no matter what his performance is this year. The Birds knew he had arm issues when they traded for him. I suppose they thought his hitting would compensate for his lack of D. Some idiot owner in need of a PR splash will sign him to a stupid big contract. TM

    Good stuff as always. A few thoughts…
    Spring Training: Couldn’t Agree more with your thoughts…. but…
    -What about players making Spring their family vacations?
    -What about fine tuning their golf game?
    -Wouldn’t we miss seeing the player wearing Jersey # 99?
    – How would mgr/ staff get a suntan by sitting on folding chairs outside of the dugout?

    Net… players are paid huge salaries to be in shape year round. Other than personal appearances, they no longer work in the off season

    But…. an organization known as the players union would never agree to less spring, unless season salaries increase even more or 162 games decreases to 154-55 games. Start the season March 20. Warmer climate/ dome stadiums. Be done by September 20. Playoffs/ World Series done by mid October

    High School Basketball.
    Good to see St Mary’s make it to the Final 4! The admin has worked hard to re-brand the image of the school. Campus upgrades; hiring effective coaches, inclusive for all students; more focus on academic performance. Let’s hope the Crown Jewel of South St Louis has 2 more wins left! JP1

  3. Nice blog. I personally distrust Ozuna, and I have the feeling the Cardinals don’t trust him either. I don’t think they have any intention of resigning him–even if he came cheaply. Therefore, I would trade him now. A competitive American League team might take a chance on him for DH. We would be much better off with a player we have a future with. Now as I say this, he’ll probably be the MVP this season!
    Good luck to St.Mary’s. MH

  4. Bob, I agree blow up Spring Training! What a waste of time and money. They charge 35 dollars for ticket and then you see nobody good playing…… terrible baseball. Thanks MJ

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