The “Boys of Summer” aren’t meant to play in the snow. This weekend will mark the turn of the calendar to March. All teams have reported to spring training and baseball is around the corner. The first regular season game is April 5th. As I look out my Chicago suburb home, I see about a foot of snow on the ground. It doesn’t feel like summer, nor does it feel like baseball. It’s hard to imagine this city, along with many other cold-weather baseball cities will be ready for a baseball game in 35 days. Rob Manfred has been all for changes since taking over as commissioner, including acknowledging several potential schedule problems. One issue I have not heard discussed is the fact that many teams are playing baseball in below freezing weather at the beginning of the season. Some of the discussion of shortening the baseball season is to avoid having baseball games in November, as winter begins. There is no way to control which teams will be playing in the World Series, and it’s just as likely that Boston will be playing in the cold as it is that San Diego will be playing games in the 80s. There IS a way to control which teams are playing home games in April but why is nothing being done about it?
There are currently 17 teams that one can consider play their home games in a cold-weather non-dome stadium: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago (two teams), Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota, New York (two teams), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco (stretching a bit), St. Louis and Washington. That is just over half of the 30 teams in the league (57%). In April, out of the 333 games that are currently scheduled, 183 of them will be played in those 17 parks (55%). That makes sense if you’re looking to make a balanced schedule, but what is the reason it needs to be balanced? With over half the teams being played in these cold-weather cities obviously some games will feature two cold-weather teams. There should be adjustments made to at least play those games in the warmer of the two cities. All 13 of the warm/domed stadiums should be played in for at least the first two weeks.
Furthermore, by common sense a night game can be considered to be colder than a day game. Out of the 183 games, 86 of them are scheduled to be night games while only 53 have been scheduled to be a day game. There are 44 games that are currently TBA and here’s to hoping they are wisely scheduled under the sun.
The owners will tell you that they want these games to be at night due to school still being in session and attendance will drop for that reason. If the game is played in the 40s, attendance will be low regardless. This adds to the argument that if the schedule is manipulated where the cold-weather cities get more home games later in the summer, they will be able to schedule them at night, bringing in more attendance. It would be interesting to hear the argument against this. I would think possibly some teams would not want to start on the road and there are certainly advantages to playing in your home stadium. Do these advantages outweigh playing in winter hats and gloves?
Weather is of course hard to predict but there are forecasts out for the first week of the MLB season. There is only one series that is scheduled to currently be played in below freezing weather. The low forecast for the Cubs-Rockies series in Denver is 30 each day, and one of the games is a night game. There are 20 other games in the first week scheduled with a low temperature forecast below 40 degrees.
There is nothing better than enjoying a baseball game on a hot summer day. It just doesn’t look right watching a game on TV when the players are wearing long sleeves under their jerseys. However, it’s much more comfortable for me to be watching it on the TV than going out to the ballpark and sitting in the cold.