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. 

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.