Missing the simple pleasures of spring training

An old tweet of mine popped up Thursday. Exactly two years old, to be precise. It featured a slow-motion video of the Nationals holding their now-infamous "Cabbage Race" outside their spring training clubhouse.

Sean Doolittle, designated closer for the team captained by Max Scherzer, was last to receive a head of cabbage that made its way all the way down a line of teammates and slammed it to the ground just before Daniel Hudson, closing for Stephen Strasburg's team, slammed his. It set off a wild celebration, with Scherzer reacting like it was Game 7 of the World Series in Houston, not Feb. 17 the following spring in West Palm Beach.

It made for an utterly ridiculous scene. But, man oh man, what I and everyone else would give to be watching a cabbage race in Florida right now over the alternative.

Spring training should have begun for all 30 clubs this week. You of course already know that didn't happen. Instead, the only live "action" taking place in the baseball world Thursday was the 15-minute meeting between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association in New York, the latest in a series of too-brief negotiating sessions as the lockout continues to drag on.

Hope isn't lost quite yet. The two sides still have about a week to get something done and still get a four-week camp going that would allow opening day to take place March 31 as scheduled. And based on various reports Thursday night, they intend to hold more frequent meetings beginning Monday, perhaps finally displaying the sense of urgency that has been so lacking for 2 1/2 months now.

Thumbnail image for Ballpark-of-Palm-Beaches-Sidebar.jpgSo maybe this will all work out in the end. In the meantime, though, it's hard not to shed a tear for what we've already lost.

Maybe spring training only needs to be four weeks instead of six, but mid-February has long represented a joyous moment on the baseball calendar. Pitchers and catchers reporting to sunny Florida and Arizona. It sounds corny, but just the mention of it brings a smile to your face, doesn't it?

We should be down there right now, meeting new members of the team, catching up with returning players and coaches, providing a firsthand look at Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Joe Ross in what should be a critical spring for all three starters looking to bounce back either from injury or poor performance in 2021.

We should be noting how Keibert Ruiz is handling life as the new No. 1 catcher and perhaps embodiment of the Nationals' rebuilding project. In a few more days, once position players joined the group, we would be noting how Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom looked, how manager Davey Martinez had decided to align an infield with a lot of moving parts and of course how Juan Soto is preparing to keep doing his thing while taking over as the unquestioned new face of the franchise with Scherzer up the road in Port St. Lucie, Trea Turner at Dodgers camp in Arizona and Ryan Zimmerman chilling at home in Northern Virginia in his first official days of retirement.

We should be wondering which starters are in the mix for the final spots in the rotation. We should be figuring out how the bullpen is going to be set up. We should be keeping an eye on Mike Rizzo's whereabouts, just in case the general manager is still working on adding more players to the fold.

But we're not. We're stuck at home, just as we all have been far too much these last two years for multiple reasons, waiting to learn how this saga is finally going to be resolved.

Maybe it won't be resolved in time, and for the second time in three years opening day won't take place as scheduled, for the first time in 27 years due to a labor dispute. Maybe it will somehow come together just in the nick of time.

Either way, we won't be getting to shoot any more slow-mo videos of players passing and smashing vegetables on a practice field. National Cabbage Day only comes once a year, and sadly it has now come and gone.

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