Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts not close to returning to Orioles three months after concussion

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Brian Roberts hasn’t played since a head-first slide into first base on May 16 left him with a concussion and even after three months on the sidelines his chances of returning this season remain unclear.

Roberts spoke yesterday to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, discussing his frustration with the injury, his desire to return and remain a big part of the Orioles’ plans, and the reaction he’s had to fan backlash regarding his extended absence.

I certainly want people to understand through the whole process that there’s nobody more frustrated than I am, there’s nobody that loves playing the game of baseball still more than I do. I know it’s been disappointing for our fans, for our players, for our organization, not only the season but my circumstance.

Unfortunately you cannot always control the perception that’s out there. All you can do is know that you are doing everything that you can. So for me, in this instance I’m doing everything I can to get back on the baseball field. If the perception out there, if there is one, that I’m not, or for some unknown reason people have feelings that I don’t want to play baseball, I’m sure that’s very hard and hurtful for someone who has as much pride as I feel like I do.

Justin Morneau went through a similar situation in Minnesota last season, as his missing the entire second half of the season led to criticism from a segment of the fan base that refused to understand the delicate and unpredictable nature of concussions. In addition to Roberts and Morneau, other players to miss months following concussions include Jason Bay last season and Morneau’s teammate, Denard Span, this year.

Span returned last week following a two-month absence, played horribly, and then revealed that he’s still dealing with post-concussion symptoms. In other words, the notion that Roberts is somehow extending his absence by not being tough enough or working hard enough to get back in the Orioles’ lineup is absurd.

It has nothing to do with hard work or how much a player wants to return. Brain injuries are a hell of a lot more complicated than any of that. Three months after his concussion Roberts continues to experience headaches, to the point that he had to cancel a recent charity fundraiser, and still hasn’t been cleared for full workouts.

It’s spring training for groundskeepers too

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Or, I should say, it’s spring training for whatever automated timer thingie turns the sprinklers on and off.

This was the scene at Goodyear on Saturday as the Indians and Reds played in the bottom of the eighth in their spring training opener. Reds manager Bryan Price says that this was probably the second or third time this has happened in the middle of a game there.

Maybe investigate manually operating that bad boy? Just a suggestion!

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.