Check The Calendar
Here are some potential outcomes (unofficial and hypothetical) if the MLB lockout ends on the following date(s):
- Today through February 19 (one week before spring training opener): Play ball as scheduled — spring training and regular season — with a possible delay to pitcher/catcher report dates. (If the lockout ends closer to 2/19, consider seven-inning contests in the first week of stadium games to save pitchers.)
- February 19 through February 26 (ST opener): Consider cutting the first few spring training games to allow players enough time to arrive and gear up. Otherwise, play ball as scheduled. Consider Opening Day on time.
- February 26 (ST opener) through March 7 (ST Day 10): Consider cutting the first two (or 2.5) weeks of Cactus League games, leaving 15-18 spring games on the schedule for an on-time Opening Day. Begin to consider delaying Opening Day, but don’t bank on it just yet.
- March 7 through March 13: Contact individual clubs (?) to see if only two weeks of Arizona/Florida spring training is worth it. Let them decide (?) the course of action; this could be the final window for an on-time Opening Day.
(Teams are selling spring training tickets right now, which could motivate them to actually play *some* of those games at this point.)
— March 13: Cactus League Midpoint (Day 16 of 32) —
- March 13 through March 20: Colorado will have 14 games remaining on the Cactus League schedule on March 13. Even if the lockout ended that day, it would probably take 48 hours (or more) to coordinate individual flights, arrive, move into housing and be ready for a game. At this point, if Opening Day is not pushed back, teams would be forced to consider skipping their Arizona or Florida arrangements and moving players to the big league cities instead.
A Big Unknown: At what point do you move spring training altogether?
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Remember when the Rockies had July ‘spring training’ in Denver?
Behold, an empty Coors Field, with the 2020 Rockies battling the 2020 Rockies.
We already know what COVID-19 did to baseball that year. Spring training halted on March 12, MLB shut down games until late July, and players ramped up with a little something called ‘Summer Camp’ in their first taste of empty stadiums. It was first called ‘Spring Training 2.0’ before getting a cooler name.
It was poetic. Empty stadiums were full of mystique. Baseball was experiencing a rebirth during a pandemic, and America received a thin slice of optimism from its pastime.
Now, we are just shy of two years later. Get ready to (maybe) run it back this March and/or April — but this time, without the optimism.
Get ready to (maybe) run it back in frigid temperatures — and short-change the Cactus League for a third consecutive season.
Nobody will get paid if the MLB lockout continues into the regular season. The loss of revenue is a motivator for both owners and players to resolve their dispute. The ominous ‘TBD’ for Opening Day means players are again forced to embrace the unknown with the all-too-familiar #WhenAndWhere attitude. It’s the rally call that fueled them through 2020 schedule negotiations (only this time, it’s called #AtTheTable).
40-man players cannot even step foot in a club-operated building during the lockout, let alone play in an MLB-sanctioned game. Normal spring training is at risk of being canceled altogether for that reason.
Even if the Cactus League is only shortened this year, at what point is it not worth sending the Rockies to Arizona?
Cactus League Motivators: Phoenix, Fans and Sanity
Spring training has not been normal since 2019: due to COVID, it was shut down in 2020 and played in front of limited-capacity crowds in 2021.
The city of Phoenix and surrounding areas have reason to push for a normal spring training this year. March in Arizona is a cash cow, and watching it diminish for a third consecutive year is not why those communities (and MLB clubs) put 10 of these 12,000-seat cathedrals in the desert. Spring training is a century-old tradition, and before the pandemic, it was bigger than ever.
Fans have reason to push for a normal spring training, too. If you’ve been to the Cactus League, you know how perfect it is.
A Logistical Nightmare?
Let’s assume the lockout ends on March 10th, about three weeks before Opening Day. Players must immediately plan travel to spring training sites. They must plan temporary housing on short notice. They must say goodbye to families, packing bags in near-record time just to arrive ‘ready to play’.
The mental rhythm of any player has been slammed for two full years already. It will be expected for that rhythm to return as soon as the locks come off the lockout, which is a tough reality for even the most trained players. Even getting to Arizona will be a mad rush for anybody training outside the Phoenix valley.
It would be a lesser expense for the Rockies to on-ramp in Denver instead of Phoenix altogether.
Saving money does not make it right, however.
If spring training is shortened this year, a ‘spring camp’ in Denver could be easy to plan. Unlike 2020 summer camp, you could sell tickets for the intrasquads. Fans show up for Broncos training camp, after all (although it’s warmer in the late summer). How many people would come to Coors Field in March?
Baseball players are expected to play full games in April cold, so gearing up in similar weather may not be as big of a detriment as people think. Players could move into the same housing they will spend the regular season, packing their bags just once.
Denver in the spring is no Phoenix, however. Spring training exists in Arizona for a reason, and for the purpose it serves, it cannot be matched.
In 2022, that purpose is needed more than ever.
It’s time to get baseball back to normal.
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Keith Law of The Athletic forecasts the best minor league systems in baseball; the NL West-rival Dodgers and Diamondbacks take up two of his top three slots. This all comes after L.A. forked over prospects like Josiah Gray in the Max Scherzer deal (with Scherzer now a New York Met), and after the D-Backs waived the white flag on their competitive window after dealing Starling Marte last year.
Law ranks Colorado’s farm system No. 25 after ranking them 21 a year ago. “They do still have a lot of upside within the system, but my outsider take is that they have had a lot of guys suffer from the lost reps of 2020 and the lack of an intermediate level between the complex and Low A,” he said.
Our friends at Rox Pile secured a tremendous guest for their podcast’s 100th episode. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks on how the 2021 All-Star Game came to light in Denver, as well as the state of the MLB lockout and the idea of a federal mediator. Polis also spoke on his work in the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park.
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