These days, Major League Baseball is truly a 365-day-a-year endeavor — with plenty of overlap. The offseason truly never ends, as players remain unsigned even after the season begins. The so-called championship season stretches into October, followed by a postseason that will bleed into November.
And the concept of players “working their way into shape” once spring arrives is long gone; nowadays, it’s just a few weeks of recuperation and then back to fine-tuning their bodies to gain — or retain — any edge.
Still, while the grind never stops, there’s something to be said for the days pitchers and catchers report. The informal becomes just a bit more formal. Friendships are rekindled, and awkward greetings among new teammates commence.
There’s also this: Conflicts are either resolved or grow more worrisome as teams prepare to head for their permanent homes come April.
USA TODAY Sports examines the festering issues that will play out in the sunshine of Arizona and Florida.
It’s the aim of every team to win the final game of the season. So what’s a manager to do when his franchise has taken that goal off the table even before spring training?
That’s the quandary facing skippers of the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.
All are rebuilding. Some are just beginning the process. Most will face the insinuation that their franchise is “tanking” in order to maximize their draft position and sweeten the pot with which they can acquire amateur players.
Somehow, four managers must pull together players who know the six weeks of spring training and the six-month season that follows almost assuredly will end in disappointment and possibly 100 losses.
The future is always an easier sell for upper management. “I think this is a great opportunity to see these young guys play and watch them develop,” Reds President Walt Jocketty said to a fan on the club’s winter caravan stop. “There’s a lot of new faces. I’m looking forward to spring training to see what we have.”
The task might be less pleasant for manager Bryan Price. He’ll have a second baseman, Brandon Phillips, that the club tried to deal to the Washington Nationals, only for Phillips to exercise his no-trade clause. His right fielder, Jay Bruce, will hear his name in trade rumors until opening day — and again weeks later if he’s still around.
His first baseman, Joey Votto, will have to put a good face on it all, knowing it might be years before he’s surrounded by a contending team again.
It will be no different in Brewers camp, where All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy knows his weeks might be numbered, or in Clearwater, Fla., where the Phillies’ Ryan Howard reaches the end of a $125 million deal facing an uncomfortable platoon.
It’s a no-win situation for all involved, but a grim reality in this era of extreme teardowns.