The Cardinals are entering their 90th year of Florida Spring Training. That’s long enough.
A trend has started over the last few decades of teams getting up and moving from Florida to Arizona for Spring Training. Yes, I realize just getting up and leaving to go across the country isn’t necessarily the most practical, nor easiest, thing in the world.
But there has to be some reason teams like the Dodgers have packed their bags and made their way across the South to Grand Canyon State. Here’s why it’s time for the Cardinals to do the same:
Roger Dean Stadium is Old
While this isn’t necessarily a reason in and of itself, it certainly supports the argument for moving cross-country for Spring Training. Roger Dean stadium, constructed in 1998, is no longer brand new. As well, it is on the smaller side of most Spring Training ballparks, housing under 7,000 people. No stadium in Arizona holds less than 10,000.
As well, the Cardinals share this stadium with the Miami Marlins. This means that, if the Cardinals were to leave, the $28 million park would not be turned into a parking lot. There would still be a team calling it home.
Although the exact contract between the teams regarding the stadium is unclear, I do know that extension negotiations are due to come in 2023, at which point the Cardinal organization to decide to leave the stadium behind, if they don’t do so earlier.
The Weather is better in Arizona
I realize this may be a touristy thing to say, but if you don’t think the players car about the weather when they’re practicing for three hours, playing a game, and then perhaps practicing again, every single day, you’re dead wrong.
I’ve been to both Spring Trainings, twice each, and although Arizona can get up into the 120s in the summer, during March, there’s no more enjoyable place to be. All there is there is a dry 75-80 degrees with sun and a soft breeze, keeping everyone in the ballpark light and energized for the entire day.
Compared to Arizona, Florida is a swamp land, with exhausting humidity and draining sun levels. Even during the night games, as a fan, in short sleeves and shorts, I was uncomfortably hot and sweaty.
The only complaint I had about Arizona is that occasionally during their night games, it would get a little chilly! But overall, as a spectator, Arizona was a noticeably more comfortable environment to watch games. I have to imagine it’s the same for the guys out on the field.
The Teams are Better in Arizona
With the exception of perhaps the Mets and the Nationals, going forward, the teams who the Cards are going to have to compete with for a National League pennant reside in the Southwest for the month of March.
Over the next 5-7 years, the best teams in the National League look to be the Cubs, the Giants, and the Dodgers. They are young, they are talented, they have great managers, and they’re Spring Training homes are in Arizona. And, oh, all that applies the the defending AL champions as well.
Moving to Arizona would give the Cardinals the opportunity to see more of these teams, and get used to playing not only they’re current starters, but also the players that are going to help these teams succeed in the future.
I mean, doesn’t it just seem logical that the Red Birds should be warming up for the season in the same place as the main teams they’re going to be competing against? Why are they 2,500 miles away from the Cubs getting ready for the season? They should be right under their noses.
Nay sayers may say “well, it’s only a month.” But it’s a month of getting the chance to play our rival teams in what a lot of baseball people would consider the most important part of the season, as they’re ironing out their issues, and forming identities for the year.
It’s a chance to see these teams as they are in the process of building their goals for the upcoming year. And guess what. It’s easy to see every team a bunch, because of our last reason.
The Stadiums in Arizona are much, much closer
While I haven’t mapped out the exact distances, I can tell you, again, having been to both sites, that all the Arizona stadiums are probably within 20-30 miles of each other, while the Florida stadiums range all over the southern half of the state.
In Arizona, I was able to get to every stadium over the course of two years, based out of the same hotel both times. In Florida, I stationed out of three hotels over the two years I spent there, two in the same year, and still have only maybe been to half of the parks, if that.
If you want further proof, look at the Cardinals’ Spring Training schedule compared to that of any Cactus League team. Over the course of the entire month, the Cardinals play six different teams, one of which is the team which shares their stadium.
Conversely, the Cubs play all other 14 teams in the Cactus League, plus a game against the Italian National Team on March 7th. If you want to look at the other teams in each league, go ahead. But you’re going to get similar results.
With a move to Arizona, the Cardinals would thus not only get more exposure to the better teams in their league, but they would get more well rounded exposure as well, seeing 14 teams instead of just 5 or 6. As of now, the Cardinals don’t even play the one other team in their division also in the Grapefruit league, Pittsburgh. In the Cactus League, the Cards would be guaranteed exposure to three division rivals, along with NL high-riders San Fransisco and LA, and AL powerhouse Cleveland, along with others.
These are the multiple reasons the Cardinals should change their Spring Training home to Arizona. Obviously, this is not an overnight process. But in the long run, I believe this would be a better move for the franchise as a whole. Let us know if you agree on twitter @Cardsblog.com.