When Mariano Rivera was in his final years as the New York Yankees' closer, he sometimes waited until he arrived at spring training to begin his throwing program. He was in excellent physical condition, of course, but he believed in the idea of saving his arm for when it really mattered: the regular season.
The Yankees allowed him to go at his own pace, and sometime in the middle of March, long after the exhibition season had started, Rivera would make his first spring appearance. There was no push to have him ready for the exhibition games because, well, they don't count. A lot of players privately believe that camp goes on for too long anyway, and would prefer to skip a lot of it. Heck, they don't even get paid in spring training.
So it'll be interesting to hear the response from other players if Aroldis Chapman is suspended from spring training games under MLB's new domestic violence policy for the incident at his home in October.
Because telling a veteran player he's not allowed to play in exhibition games is like informing an 11-year-old he's no longer permitted to eat broccoli and cauliflower. I'd bet some other players would say, privately, Can I miss some spring training, too?
The prospect of that inevitable response should make MLB think twice about a decision like that. Joel Sherman reports that domestic violence penalties might include spring workouts or exhibition games. Commissioner Rob Manfred has a lot of leeway in determining a penalty, writes Mark Feinsand.
As Manfred prepares to render his first decisions under the new domestic violence policy, he should bypass the possible inclusion of spring training or exhibition games as part of any penalty. No matter how strongly worded the language attached to an announcement like that would be, pulling a player off the field from games that have no value in the standings as a theoretical punishment will have zero impact as a deterrent.