The Grapefruit League vs. the Cactus League

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Cactus League.jpgThis spring there will be 15 teams training in Arizona and 15 training in Florida. As many teams outside of Florida as in is a first, and Florida politicians don’t like it:

It’s a trend that concerns Florida tourism officials and lawmakers, who
are determined to keep the Grapefruit League’s 15 teams, if not entice
others to join. Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Crist met with owners
of the Chicago Cubs and promised to “do whatever it takes” to lure them
to the Naples area for spring training . . . Legislation being drafted would create a pool of money the state can
use to award matching grants to communities and teams that want to
build stadiums or renovate existing facilities.

I don’t want to launch a giant political debate, but can I ask why government intervention in business is almost always viciously attacked, but no one ever cries “socialism” when they give money to billionaires to build ballparks?

Anyway, I don’t know that there’s much of anything that can be done to stop the movement west. Yes, I suppose there’s some baseline that we won’t go under in Florida due to eastern seaboard teams wanting to cater to retirees and vacationers who overwhelmingly choose to go to Florida over other places, but by all accounts Arizona has Florida beat as far as spring training experiences go.

Why? Because the facilities are all clustered around Phoenix, thereby cutting down on travel time and expense while concentrating the teams in a more densely-populated area.  The weather is more predictable.  I’ve heard Floridians say that Grapefruit Leaguers get in better shape because they sweat more there, but that sounds like a bogus reach to my untrained ears. I’m guessing an exercise physiologist could debunk it on the back of a napkin. Exertion is exertion.

But the biggest thing keeping the tide from turning is that public money. According to a pretty nifty book I read last spring, through early 2009, Arizona had spent roughly $250 million in public money building and improving
spring training facilities for major league baseball teams (they no doubt spent more this year to finish off the Reds’ portion of the new Arizona facility they share with the Indians). Florida has
spent too, but probably $100 million less than Arizona has.

So, my recession and housing-market-bust-crippled Floridian readers: You want your state to spend another $100 million — and likely much more — to lure the major leaguers back for a couple months each year?  I wouldn’t. Let ’em go to Arizona. If you want to see them so bad, hop a flight to Phoenix. They’re pretty cheap, actually. 

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.