MLB Insider: Can early-season weather woes be avoided?

Posted Saturday, Apr. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Top five Braves Atlanta has power and pitching. Hard to beat that. Athletics Oakland is taking advantage of the Houston factor (6-0). Red Sox Carried six-game win streak into emotional home weekend. Rockies Walt Weiss, Super Genius. Nationals Sluggish start for team that will contend. Bottom five Marlins Harder on Miami: This team or Jersey Shore season? Astros Don’t have a chance when rotation struggles. Padres No hitting, no pitching, no chance. But city is a plus. Angels Current team motto: Not as bad as last April, right? Indians As lost as Terry Francona was on way to home opener.

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The major leagues have been around for more than a century, and for all those 100-plus years teams have been located in northern climates where weather in April can be as dicey as the elements several teams faced last week.

So, the scheduling complaints that have emerged after snowouts in Denver and rainouts in Minnesota and Chicago are hardly anything new. But that doesn’t mean that players don’t question the schedule.

Even players on cold-weather teams.

“We would laugh when we’d open up the season with Arizona at home,” said Rangers utility man Jeff Baker, who has played for Colorado and the Chicago Cubs. “We were like, ‘Huh?’ You’re scratching your head sometimes.”

So far this season, 11 games have been lost or suspended due to lousy weather at northern or high-elevation ballparks.

The New York Mets have had three road games at Minnesota and Colorado snowed out.

The Mets and Rockies played Thursday in Denver with a first-pitch temperature of 28 degrees, and on Tuesday had a doubleheader only after snow was shoveled from the field.

While the Rangers were washed out Wednesday in Chicago, Anaheim was rained out at Minnesota.

It would seem that someone somewhere over the course of 55 years since teams headed to Southern California and other southern or western locations would have come up with a solution to baseball’s early-season scheduling woes.

Surely someone somewhere has. Just about every Rangers players had a thought last week at Wrigley Field.

But there’s a catch as to why baseball has to be played in those cities in the first month each season: The teams in warm climates don’t want to trade away summer home dates and larger crowds, and the extra money that comes with them.

Who cares about the quality of play, the enhanced injury risk to players, or the home team’s gate?

Not even baseball’s almighty players union can overcome that.

“I’ve raised this in some of our union meetings,” Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman said. “What I was told was that everyone wants to play summer dates. Nobody wants the April and May home dates. To accommodate everybody, it’s just the way the things work out. You’d think there’d be a way to limit the damage, so to speak.”

Berkman, to absolutely no one’s surprise, has a few thoughts on the subject. Even swapping May dates for April dates could make a big difference, he said. Even after the computer-generated schedule is spit out, common sense should prevail when someone sees that the warm-weather Rangers — April 10 notwithstanding — were scheduled for an April stretch of 14 of 17 games on the road.

Eleven of those were scheduled in cold-weather cities, seven in parks that were built without a retractable roof. The stretch ends with four games next week at Minnesota.

Complicating scheduling matters this year is that teams are visiting cities outside of their division only once this season, part of the concessions made to have 15 teams in each league.

“It makes absolutely no sense, because this is probably when we’ll have our best weather,” Berkman said, matter-of-factly. “It’s one of those things that everyone knows is dumb, but they keep doing it. So there’s got to be a reason why they keep doing it.”

To be fair, the whine factor from the Rangers’ clubhouse didn’t register very loudly, even from Berkman. It’s part of being a player, and it’s not like a single one of them has to book his own travel.

Days off, though, are gold in baseball. Sacrificing only one of them to make up a canceled game might seem insignificant, but it’s an extra flight for players and eight extra hours doing baseball stuff on a day reserved to not take a toll on their bodies.

The Mets, Rangers and Angels have to make return trips on upcoming off days to make up those games.

“Those are precious, especially later in the season,” Baker said.

Early-season scheduling woes are as old as the game. Someone somewhere has to have a solution. After all, baseball has had decades to ponder one.

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