Mehno: MLB should shorten spring training

PITTSBURGH — Exhibition baseball starts this weekend with the Pirates playing the first of their 30 games.

That’s about 10 more than they need.

Spring training is too long, and has been for a while.

There was a time when six weeks of spring training was necessary. Players needed that time to get in shape for the season. No more.

Even the minor leaguers work with personal trainers in the offseason. The players need some games to get their timing at the plate, but they’re in shape when they get to camp.

Ideally, exhibition games provide teams with a chance to look at young players in game action. At the same time, baseball people will swear that spring training results don’t mean a thing. The competition is nothing like regular season games at the major league level.

Remember last year when Juan Nicasio was so dominant in exhibition games that he forced his way into the starting rotation? It took 10 major league starts for the Pirates to realize their initial evaluation was correct and Nicasio was most effective when used out of the bullpen.

The general manager of the Pirates admitted spring training was longer than it needed to be. The GM who made that admission was Joe L. Brown. He made the statement in 1975.

He said the value of spring training was the free publicity generated for the regular season.

“It’s an advertisement every day,” Brown said. “It says that baseball is back.”

Now there’s another component as well. Spring training has become big business.

Sleepy little towns like Bradenton bustle with tourist business for the length of spring training. There’s plenty of money to be made.

Commerce will be served, which is the way things go.

So play ball! (Sort of).

Out of court

Joey Porter entered a guilty plea to a minor charge Tuesday and paid a $300 fine.

Now it’s up to the NFL to decide if there will be a further penalty for the dust-up with police outside of a bar on Pittsburgh’s South Side last month.

Then the Rooneys will decide if Porter keeps his job as an assistant coach.

Unless the NFL comes down heavily on him, bet that Porter will stay on the Steelers’ staff.

Another legend passes

At the risk of overloading on pro wrestling, there was another death from a bygone era that didn’t get much notice.

Ivan Koloff, who portrayed a Russian menace, died of liver cancer at age 74.

Koloff was really a French Canadian named Oreal Parras. He was the wrestler chosen to take the WWWF title in 1971 when Bruno Sammartino no longer wanted the responsibility of wearing the belt.

Mehno can be reached at