Perhaps the MLB owners and players association will engage in sincere and fruitful discussions this week and work out a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Or perhaps the Owners vs. Players divide will expand instead of narrow. We’ll find out soon enough. But one way or another, the delay to the start of spring-training games isn’t good.

The sport is missing out on recovery time from the self-inflicted wounds caused by the lockout. Having a full schedule of games in Florida and Arizona was an opportunity to change the subject from a labor dispute to actual baseball. Fans want to turn their attention to lineup decisions, starting rotation plans, the composition of the 26-man roster, and get motivated to finalize ticket purchases for the regular season.

But by pushing off a cherished baseball tradition – planned vacations to watch spring-training exhibitions in warm and soothing weather – MLB gave fans more reason to turn their backs and find other things to do with their time and dollars. Another fan-relations disaster for MLB. And if the regular season doesn’t open on time, fans will be even less forgiving.

The baseball part of this bothers me too.

First of all, the owners and players have done nothing to go about the task of making adjustments that would make the product more exciting and entertaining for 2022. The overdue implementation of the universal designated hitter will be more about a business decision and the chance for the players to add well-paying jobs to fill DH voids.

But as for the slow play, the overly long games, the smothering effect of defensive shifts, the monotonous procession of relief pitchers, the increase in strikeouts, the reduced number of batted balls in play and base hits … well, forget about it. Maybe next year.

Only major league baseball would shut down the game without fixing the game.

Here’s my other concern, which applies to all MLB teams. But I write about the Cardinals, so I’ll focus on the Cardinals.

A shorter spring won’t be beneficial to the Redbirds. If anything, the effects will be harmful. Or, of course I could be overreacting, but I don’t think so.

Let’s take a look at how the 2022 Cardinals could be hurt by the abbreviated spring training.

1) Impact on starting pitching and the risk of injuries. Unless the front office adds depth the starting rotation is pretty much set. In no particular order the five designated starters are Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson. Wainwright is good to go, and he constantly eases fears concerning his age – but for the record he will turn 41 near the end of the regular season. Flaherty, Mikolas and Hudson have made a combined 42 starts since the beginning of the 2020 season. Not counting the outlier 2020 campaign, Matz has started at least 29 games in each of his last three full seasons. But his early years in the majors were stressed by injuries.

Starters will have to fast-forward their readiness process for the regular season, and the Cardinals have an unfortunate history of spring-training injuries including Mikolas, Carlos Martinez, K.K. Kim, Alex Reyes, Wainwright and Michael Wacha. Pitchers are tethered to their routines, and a scrambled schedule can lead to trouble. In 2021 pitching injuries increased dramatically after the truncated ‘20 season. It’s best not to mess with their preparation. If Cardinal pitchers have to rush to get in shape, we’ll be hoping for good luck.

2) Limited experimentation. Members of the front office have openly discussed using Reyes in the rotation, but the decision was made to put him in the bullpen as the closer in 2021. He had a strong first half and a lousy second half, and endurance was an obvious issue. Reyes isn’t stretched out to be a starter, and he won’t have the proper time to do that in a shortened 2022 camp. What will be the Reyes role in 2022? Sixth starter and swingman? Late-inning setup? It’s really hard to say right now, and the Cardinals won’t have as many exhibition games available to form answers. And then there’s reliever Jordan Hicks. If the Cardinals want to repurpose Hicks and make him a starter, the transformation won’t happen in spring training. Hicks will need more time, and that means going back to the minors.

3) The sorting out process. The Cardinals will have young arms in camp that could compete for a spot in the big-league bullpen during normal times. But what will fewer exhibition appearances mean for them? Unless they are perfect and there are injuries to other relievers – or both – I have to think it will be more difficult to win a seat in the ‘pen. On the player position side, an example of this could be middle infielder Brendan Donovan. Will he have enough time to make a lasting impression, or get that quick ticket to Triple A Memphis?

4) Nolan Gorman and Juan Yepez. Fewer spring-training games, more at-bats for the veterans, and fewer at-bats for the youngsters. Unless, of course, the Cardinals are determined to go into the season with one of the young sluggers in the DH role or tucked into a busy backup job. That said, the CBA may have an impact on this. If there are no changes made to prevent management from stashing rookies in the minors in the time-honored manipulation of service time, both guys could start out at Memphis – no matter how they do in Jupiter. But another possibility created in the CBA would be good for the rookies – rewarding teams with a draft pick for keeping them all season. Obviously, the picture is a bit fuzzy right now for these two legit hitting prospects. To an extent, the unfinished CBA business has them in limbo.

5) More time-related pressure on the rookie manager. I don’t want to overstate this because Oli Marmol has plenty of experience in organizing and handling a spring–training regimen. Under Mike Shildt, Marmol played a significant role in arranging and supervising the daily work-a-day. And Marmol’s bench coach, Skip Schumaker, is similarly experienced. So the Cardinals should be OK. But I go back to a frequent theme in this piece: maximum time is beneficial. A rookie manager can’t form an identity for himself and his team and cultivate relationships when the Cardinals are hurrying their way through Jupiter. And because of time constraints, it could be more challenging for Marmol and staff to put together their team. But even if these things make the situation more difficult, Marmol is a smart guy who should adjust.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.