We are week into the regular season, and the Royals have already had two games postponed due to inclement weather, namely bitterly cold temperatures and snow. Of the four games they have played, all had an official game-time temperature of 45 degrees or less, including a game played just above the freezing mark in Detroit. This weekend, for their games in Cleveland, the forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s.
In the new labor deal, the players’ union successfully bargained for an extra four off-days as a break from the daily grind. Baseball is reluctant to extend the post-season well into November, since inclement weather for those games would be bad for television partners, so to accommodate the four extra off-days, the season began as early as March 29 this year.
However this has given us a week full of games played in weather not fit for man or beast. It is not just the Royals, already a total of eight games have been postponed in the first week, including four home openers. Of the games played, 24 of them (13.7% of all games played as of Thursday) have been played in temperatures 45 degrees or less, including the Pirates and Twins, who played in the snow in Pittsburgh.
Should baseball do anything to avoid these chilly spring temps? The cold weather presents a few problems. First, it postpones games, requiring doubleheaders later in the year, which can be taxing on pitching staffs and even position players in the daily grind of the summer schedule. Second, colder temperatures can create more of an injury-risk with pulled muscles. Third, the colder weather depresses turnout at the gate, costing teams revenue. And if anything, playing in the cold is just a miserable experience for everyone involved. The 45-degree opener in Kansas City was accompanied with a stiff, frigid wind which made it about the most unbearable game I have ever attended.
So what should be done? There are a few options.
Begin the season only in warm climate stadiums
If you are worried about cold weather in Cleveland in late March, don’t go to Cleveland in late March. I looked at the average historical temperature for March 29 at each stadium site and found exactly half the league plays in stadiums that are either climate-controlled or with an average temperature of over 50 degrees on that day, and half the league plays in stadiums with an average temperature of 50 degrees or under on that day.
Climate-controlled/nice weather - Atlanta (55), Arizona (indoors), Baltimore (52), Houston (indoors), LA Angels (60), LA Dodgers (62), Miami (76), Milwaukee (indoors), Oakland (55), San Francisco (56), San Diego (61), Seattle (indoors), Tampa Bay (indoors), Texas (61), Toronto (indoors)
Cold weather - Boston (43), Chi. Cubs (44), Chi. White Sox (44), Cincinnati (49), Cleveland (42), Colorado (43), Detroit (42), Kansas City (47), Minnesota (38), NY Yankees (47), NY Mets (46), Philadelphia (48), Pittsburgh (44), St. Louis (50), Washington (48)
Yea, I was kinda surprised Baltimore is, on average, warmer than Washington that day, despite being further north. Do crabcakes warm the air or something?
You could simply rig the schedule so that all the cold weather teams begin the year in all the climate-controlled/nice weather stadiums. However, you can expect to get a lot of pushback from the cold weather teams who may see this as a competitive disadvantage. No team wants to get buried because they began the year with a 7-10 game road-trip. And you may actually see pushback from warm-weather teams as well. Why? Because more home games in April means more road games in July, when kids are out of school and stadiums are fuller, potentially costing them revenue.
There are also concerns how the scheduling would work out logistically - there are a ton of variables schedule-makers have to consider (number of games against divisional and non-divisional opponents when stadiums aren’t available, making sure teams don’t play more than 20 games in a row without an off-day, etc.) This would add another wrench into an already complicated process.
Push the season back
Baseball in March seems kinda silly anyway. Push the season back a week or even two to avoid some of the chillier temps this early in the year. To accommodate this later start, you have a few options. You could shorten the regular season - if you’re a monster who wants less baseball. I bet you also hate ice cream, and think puppies look stupid. You could shorten the post-season, but considering the money baseball makes from that, it is about as likely as owners paying minor leaguers a living wage.
You could simply push everything back a week or two. That would mean the World Series is played well into November, a situation television would like to avoid, as I stated earlier. However, on average, November weather in the Northeast and Upper Midwest is a few degrees warmer than early April weather. The Royals won a championship in New York on November 1 with a perfectly comfortable game-time temperature of 61 degrees.
But these games are of much more importance than early April games. Major League Baseball would prefer they be played in neutral environments, to ensure a fair outcome. Pushing games into November increases the likelihood of poor weather, as we saw in the 2008 World Series. Weather much colder than the regular season could hurt a team relying on offense all year. Then again, perhaps weather should just be another factor - it is in football, after all.
You could also remove the off-days the union just bargained for, although it seems unlikely the MLBPA would capitulate that quickly after winning the concession. You could schedule double-headers throughout the year, but again, the union is likely to resist, and owners aren’t keen on doubleheaders as they tend to be not as profitable as single games.
Do nothing, you can’t predict weather
Of course, this frigid spring isn’t normal at all. Last year’s Mets opener was played in 62 degrees weather, this year’s was snowed out. Kansas City’s weather is notoriously hard to predict. It was 60 degrees yesterday, it will be in the teens this weekend. A Royals game was once snowed-out in May.
So maybe we’ll just have to toughen up and deal with poor weather once in awhile. Why in my day, we had to walk through two feet of snow to watch a baseball game. And we liked it!
Of course, there are more extreme measures Commissioner Rob Manfred could consider.
What should MLB do about early cold weather?
This poll is closed
Begin the year in climate controlled/nice weather stadiums
Push the season back a week - cut games
Push the season back a week - move everything back
Push the season back a week - doubleheaders
Do nothing - wear a sweater