Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, which has become a stage for entertaining antics like comedian Will Ferrell’s “MLB debut” last year, will have less room for such theatrics starting next year.
Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports that Spring Training will be shortened by two days beginning in 2018. Starting next year, the voluntary report date for catchers and pitchers will be 43 days before the start of the regular season. Currently, that date is 45 days before the start of the regular season. Position players will now report 38 days prior to their respective team’s Opening Day as opposed to 40 days.
The change was made to distribute each team’s 162 regular-season games over the course of 187 days, which is an increase over the 183 days dictated in the collective bargaining agreement which was just replaced in December.
The new CBA also includes a change intended to decrease the frequency of day games after night games for teams. Starting next season, the start times of games in which one of the teams is traveling to another away game in a different city after the game, or when the team has an off-day at home the next day, will be determined based on a simple formula of subtracting the duration which the requisite flight surpasses 2 1/2 hours from 7 p.m. local time. For instance, if the visiting team in a game is traveling to another city to continue its road trip after the game, and the flight will take three hours, the game will start at 6:30 p.m. There are two exceptions: one for Sunday Night games and another for games at Globe Life Park, the home of the Texas Rangers, which are scheduled for June 1 or later. The Rangers avoid afternoon games during that part of the season because of the heat.
A change that works the opposite way is also now in place. The rule which takes effect in 2018 states that no game may start before 5 p.m. when one of the teams played in a different city and that game began at 7 p.m. or later the night before. Again, there are a couple of exceptions: one for when the flight that brought the team to the current city was less than 90 minutes and the Cubs get up to six exceptions each season to this rule.
As a concession for the increased idle days and travel time, the MLB Players Association agreed to allow the league to schedule one game on the Thursday after the All-Star Game. Teams are hoping that the concessions made to the players will also allow more fans to attend games, but regardless, labor peace is worth a lot on its own merits.