Game On…with Rob Kriete! – MARCH 3

“For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out at the old ball game…,” well, maybe not during 2021 Spring Training games.

The unmistakable sound of a fastball hitting a catcher’s mitt, cozy ballparks, and warm Florida sunshiny weather are all benchmarks of spring for this MLB fan. Throw in a hotdog and a cold cup of suds; spring training is one of my favorite times of the year as a Floridian.

The worldwide pandemic has made Spring Training tickets much more challenging to procure as teams are understandably limiting the number of fans in attendance due to safety protocols. From what I can see, tickets are about double the usual price.

Yet, 2021 Spring Training has the most peculiar “Little League rules” I have ever seen. These games could be five innings…or seven innings…perhaps even nine innings if you’re lucky. MLB teams and their managers are making decisions on the game and its length, as it goes.

Beyond that, there is a new “mercy” rule for pitchers. To provide mercy for these precious arms, if any MLB pitcher throws 20 or more pitches in any given inning, the mercy rule can be invoked, and the innings end immediately, regardless of the score or runners on base.

Garret Richards of the Red Sox threw 23 pitches in the first inning this week while recording one out. The mercy rule was invoked, and the inning was ended for the Atlanta Braves despite the bases loaded and only one out. The very next inning, Richards was allowed to pitch again, responding with three quick outs. Two innings completed, only four outs recorded, for Richards and the Sox.

Baseball Team Logos

I have always understood that Spring Training games are glorified practices, but these have traditionally been practices that apply the usual rules of the great game of baseball. Varying lengths of games and innings makes for an uneven experience for fans, so why charge them?

If MLB fans are getting half the product for double the price, I say, let them experience it for free. Sure, MLB needs to limit tickets for safety, but they cannot honestly claim these experiences are actual games. When MLB teams practice, fans are allowed in for access to their teams without being charged. MLB needs to offer the same for these Spring Training “games.”

Mercy, let’s get our game on with actual games!

Be safe, everyone.