Saturday, April 7, 2007

Snow Delays? Why Major League Baseball Needs a New Schedule

With the Detroit Red Wings taking a 7-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks (and it's only the second period -- with the rate they are going, it may be 10-1 by the time I'm done writing this blog entry) I called my dad to ask him why there isn't a mercy rule in hockey. The conversation quickly turned to how awful the Tigers looked last night (Jose Mesa's debut was far from impressive, as he relieved Justin Verlander and promptly gave up 2 runs in a 3-1 Tigers loss to Kansas City) and how cold it was during last night's game (wind chill in the 20s) and how ridiculous it is that Major League Baseball even schedules games knowing the weather is likely to be this cold.

Take the Cleveland Indians-Seattle Mariners series for example. Last night's game was postponed due to extreme cold and rescheduled for a double-header this afternoon. Problem is, Cleveland got inches of snow overnight, and today's games were postponed too. They will try again for a double header tomorrow, and I would imagine make up the lost game at some point later in the season. The Tigers have to do the same as their game with the Blue Jays scheduled for Thursday afternoon was postponed until September due to the cold weather.

"This is piercing cold," Casey said. "In the eighth inning (Wednesday), I felt it in my bones. And (Thursday) is worse."

At Thursday's scheduled game time, the tarp was off the infield, but the temperature was 29 degrees, with 19 mph winds gusting to 41 mph and making it feel like it was 17.

"I think if we were playing, Al Gore should have been there to throw out the first pitch," first-base coach Andy Van Slyke quipped.

Minnesota had a game in Chicago postponed for the same reason. Tampa Bay and and the Yankees had a game in New York canceled because of rain. The weather seems to be forcing postponements across the league. And when teams do play, like the Tigers did last night and this afternoon in Kansas City (where the weather is in the 20s) it's not fun for anyone. Not for the players, who can't wait to get off the field and into the dugout, and not for the fans, who either don't show up because it's just too cold, or sit frozen in the stands, suffering. Not only that, but the quality of the games suffer. Extreme cold and wind makes things harder for batters and almost impossible for fielders. Wind caused errors and other misplays are extraordinarily common this time of the year, and they are incredibly unnecessary. If a fielder makes a misplay or misreads the ball and a single turns into a double or a pop out turns into a triple, that's one thing. But when weather causes these things to happen, and changes the game, for the worse, something should be done.

Which, of course, begs the question my dad asked and which I completely agree with, what is Major League Baseball trying to prove exactaly? This scheduling is insane. The fact that it snowed in Michigan or Chicago or Cleveland in April is not a surprise. It happens pretty much every year. And every year games are postponed and teams lose off-days, have to play double headers, and it's a mess. Seattle is not exactaly close to Cleveland, and the Mariners, besides their current four-games series with the Indians, won't come back to Cleveland all year. But, now, on an off-day for both teams, they'll have to. That's not good for anybody.

It's so needless too. It should be easy for Major League Baseball to give teams in cold weather cities at least an extra week before coming home to start the year. Yes, no team would likely choose to start off the season on a roadtrip, and being home is nice even when it is snowing and freezing cold, but at some point, practicality should take center stage. Minnesota plays in a dome. If they start off the season playing the White Sox, the game shouldn't be in Chicago, it should be in a dome, where even it snows a foot it won't matter. The Indians should start their season in Seattle where the weather is far less likely to be a factor. And the Tigers should have started in Toronto, in the comforts of the climate controlled Skydome (wait -- It's not called the SkyDome anymore, right? Somebody from Toronto will have to help me out here). There are plenty of domes and warm weather cities, so even if weather problems can't be completely eliminated, they can be mostly controlled.

Sadly, though, this probably won't get fixed until some star player gets hurt because of the cold weather and enough fans get fed up that owners realize that making players and fans sit through weather delays only to have games postponed or played in frigid temperatures is just silly. Starting out on the road may not be "fair" to teams in cold weather cities, but it's the best of bad options when the season starts when it's still snowing, and it is a change Major League Baseball needs to take into serious consideration before the 2008 season.

Update: I wish I could take credit for being such a fortune teller, but it may just turn out I don't check out as much as I should. As it turns out, a star player has gotten hurt because of the cold weather. According to CNNSI, All Star catcher Victor Martinez, of the aforementioned Cleveland Indians, is likely headed to the Disabled List with a strained quad, suffered, ironically, in a game against Seattle which didn't even count, because it was postponed after the weather got too cold. Too bad that didn't save Martinez from being hurt in the first place.
Cleveland's catcher strained his left quadriceps while running to first base in the third inning of the Indians' frosty home opener Friday against the Seattle Mariners. The game was eventually postponed after 173 minutes in delays.

Cold weather -- gametime temperature was 31 degrees with a wind chill of 20 -- may have contributed to Martinez getting hurt.

Umpire crew chief Rick Reed said he factored Martinez's injury into his decision to eventually postpone the game.

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Clever WoT said...

Mesa.... I felt bad for the guy, but good lord.

Scott Warheit said...

Yeah, it was ugly. And with the way Fernando Rodney pitched in the first two games, not good. At least the bullpen was able to hold a lead this afternoon.


Burrill said...

Scott, I'm less interested in the prospect of early road trips for northern teams than I am in the idea of MLB simply shortening the schedule. They play too many games -- there are snow games at the beginning of the season and at the end of the season, as last year's WS showed. Cutting a couple/few weeks off the schedule would be better than throwing off the balance of the schedule by having long early homestands and road trips.

Yeah, I know that would hit the owners in their pocketbooks a bit, but over time, that would even itself out. And maybe it would help bring about a salary cap, which is something MLB needs anyway.

But before you question my sanity, let me assure you: I know they're not going to shorten the season. I'm just dreaming.

Scott Warheit said...

Burrill -

Thanks for reading and commenting. Yeah, while shorting the season will never happen, it would certainly fix a lot the issues the game is currently having. Another suggestion I've heard is, instead of taking time off the season, have more traditional doubleheaders. Those would be great, but again, because owners aren't willing to have one box office gate receipt when they could have two, that's not going to happen either.

Oh well.


Anonymous said...

With the trades and acquisitions made going into the draft, plus the bulk of the team that is carried over from last season, and the trades and draft picks made during the draft, it sure seems like the Pats are going to be the team to beat in the AFC this season, and perhaps in all of the NFL.

Considering the Pats were almost in the Superbowl last season with a pathetic receiving corps and that they've added very talented players into said receiving corps this season, barring some nasty injury(ies), they look to be the team to take it all.I say injury(ies) because I think they could survive an injury or two to some positions, but if they lost Brady they'd probably have a hard time recovering.

I wish I could say that the Redskins did well in the draft and/or in free agency but so many holes still exist that I'm not sure they'll be significantly better than last season. I suppose on face they should be if they can keep their corners healthy. With Landry (argh, hard to type that name as a Redskin!!) back there with a healthy secondary they might be able to cheat up more and put more pressure on opposing QBs. Might.

They still have what should be a lot of talent in the receiving positions, and Campbell should be better, but they don't have the quality on either line (offense or defense) that I wish they'd have, so it could be yet another year of .500 at best, or worse.

Still, the NFC East looks to be the NFC Least again this season. None of the teams there look like they'll be that good, and none really look ready to step up and take the division.

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