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Spring training

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It’s that time of year again. The snow starts to melt, spring break is in sight and pitchers and catchers are reporting to camp.

Arguably the best season is approaching — one with warmer temperatures, March Madness and the upcoming baseball season.

It gives everyone a chance to take a break from the most boring month of the sports year, February, when the only topics seem to be about the NFL labor deal and how the Cleveland Cavaliers would not be able to beat Caltech at this point.

You know it is bad when a golfer spitting receives this much attention, even if it is Tiger Woods.

But the thought of Opening Day and another baseball season conjures up thoughts of a fast approaching summer — one with vacations, no homework and less stress.

The thought of a new baseball campaign is exciting. The sport has purged itself of the Steroid Era, as shown by the 2010 season — the Year of the Pitcher.

With four no-hitters last year (including the second in postseason history) and two perfect games (would have been three had it not been for umpire Jim Joyce ruining the bid of former Detroit Tiger Armando Galarraga), along with the lowest ERA in nearly two decades, it is obvious that the game is returning to its purist form.

Critics like to point out that baseball’s lack of a salary cap hinders the game. After all, the difference between the game’s largest payroll (the Yankees with $206 million) and the smallest (the Pirates with nearly $35 million) is about $171 million, which in itself is a larger amount than the payroll of any team but the Yankees.

Despite that gap, there has never been more parity or a higher competitive balance in the game than what has been seen over the past decade.

During the past 10 seasons, only one team has won more than one championship and only four have appeared in more than one.

Another common argument on why not to watch baseball is that the game is “dying.” Sure, it might not be America’s favorite sport as it has been for most of its existence, but it is hardly dying. The game is so popular that the league has created digital arenas such as MLB.TV and MLB Network through which its product continues to thrive.

There are certainly enough intriguing subplots for this season — the contract situation of Albert Pujols, if the Giants can once again make up for a weak offense with superb pitching, the perennial Yankees-Red Sox drama.

So, as we see the end of winter and the beginning of spring in the coming weeks, let the soothing sounds of Vin Scully once again hit the airwaves.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Andrew Owens at [email protected]