Monday, February 1, 2010

Taking Issue with a Trib Editorial

The Tampa Tribune wrote an editorial this morning about spring training's importance to Florida. And having grown up in New England, where everyone's fantasy winter vacation is a trip to Ft. Myers to watch the Sox, I completely agree with the concept.

But there's a problem when you get people who don't know much about the business of baseball (like a newspaper's editorial board) writing about the business of baseball.

The board makes some sweeping generalizations that aren't all that accurate:
"By one count, at least seven Florida teams' leases will be up for renegotiations in the next five years. Expect Arizona cities to make a strong pitch for them."

I don't know what the paper considers "renegotiations," but from what I can tell, the only Grapefruit League teams with leases that expire in the next five years are the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins. I'd say the odds of the Nats leaving Florida are slim-to-none, while the Marlins' odds are nil.

Furthermore, I've heard that Arizona is practically tapped-out when it comes to public money available to lure new teams. The Cubs were on the verge of moving to Naples, leaving the Cactus League without its biggest draw. But Mesa found a way to keep them.

The same may not be said for the Milwaukee Brewers, who can leave Arizona in 2012 and could very well fly back to Florida. Disney and St. Pete may make convincing pitches, but the clear frontrunner is Ft. Myers. It's got a beautiful, soon-to-be-empty City of Palms Park (Red Sox move into a new complex in 2012) and the area is saturated with snowbirds from Wisconsin.

Finally, don't forget that teams don't want to train too far from their fans. The Dodgers left their historical park in Vero Beach largely because Arizona is about 2,500 miles closer to L.A.

All 12 teams in the Eastern Time Zone train in Florida. All eight teams in the Pacific and Mountain time zones train in Arizona. Seven of the 10 in the Central Time Zone train in Arizona too, but that includes almost all the teams that have swapped states in recent years.

The Twins, Tigers, and Cardinals remain in Florida, but are longshots to move West. It's much more likely that we see the trend reversed and the number of teams in the Grapefruit League outnumber the teams in the Cactus League once again.

Now, it's just a matter of how much work and how much money will be required to put Florida back on top.

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