Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Trade the Glove for a Shovel

By John Gottlieb
The Phanatic Magazine

After a total of 34 games were postponed in 2006 (eight on which were in April and three of those in California), there have already been 10 cancelled games just a little more than a week into the baseball season. Rainouts can’t be eliminated but more than one game stopped due to snow is a travesty.

I’m convinced that Gordo, the squirrel monkey flown into space in 1958, could’ve put together a better schedule. Why would the Marlins, Braves, Devil Rays, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Diamondbacks all open on the road, while the Yankees, Indians, Tigers and White Sox all welcomed the 2007 season at home? Am I the only one not following what the hell is going on?

I understand that no team wants to have a schedule filled with April dates due to bad weather and sparse crowds, but we’re talking about common sense here. I can’t be the first one to think that teams with retractable roofs or domed stadiums and teams that play in warm weather should play more home games in April.

But since logic was thrown out the window, the Indians and Mariners have played half as many games as any other team. An entire four-game series between the Tribe and Seattle was postponed after Cleveland was pelted with snow. This was the only trip to the “Mistake by the Lake” for the M’s and now the teams will have to squeeze in this four-game set in drips and drabs throughout the rest of the campaign. The Indians, who many writers have picked to win the AL Central, are playing at a competitive disadvantage.

With the advent of interleague play teams don’t play a balanced schedule anymore. (Call me a traditionalist, but six games between the Mets and the Yankees is hard to stomach for New Yorkers let alone the rest of the country. And let’s not even bring up the highly anticipated Citrus Series or the compelling matchup between Colorado and Baltimore.)

Tonight the Indians will play their home opener 430 miles away at Miller Park in Milwaukee. I wonder how many Cleveland fans are going to make the seven-hour trek. While Miller Park has a roof, it’s supposed to be 32ยบ with rain and snow expected in Milwaukee, while Anaheim is expecting a low of 53° with cloudy skies. Of course it makes perfect sense that the Angels should make their one and only appearance to Cleveland in April.

Look at the injuries that have taken place in the first week. Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez strained a quadriceps muscle in the almost no-hitter that was suspended three times, Hideki Matsui pulled a hamstring and Johnny Damon strained a calf muscle for the Yankees and Washington shortstop Christian Guzman was lost after a hamstring injury on Opening Day. It's not easy to transfer from the fun and sun of Florida and Arizona to the up-and-down weather of the Northeast.

Not only are pitchers a creature of habit, which will come back to affect the Cleveland staff, but everyone knows it’s easier for hurlers to get loose and be more effective in warmer temps. Luckily there hasn’t been a devastating injury yet, but why put the players at risk. Pitching is unnatural as is, let’s not put any undue strain to make the job more difficult.
Since no one wants an abundance of games in April, including the Padres, Diamondbacks, etc. (attendance is at it lowest during the opening month), there has got to be a solution to the problem.

I’ve heard on various talk shows that teams request to not open at home, which reportedly the Devil Rays did this season, or make other pleas, but who cares? Do the schedule-makers need to cow-tow to the teams? If there is a conflict fine, but what is going on at the Trop during the first week of the season. Tell the Devil Rays tough and they’ll open at home this year and every other year until they can come up with a winning record.

Make teams open up against divisional opponents (when you know that there is ample time and opportunities to make up games), or here’s a grand idea, make it so the Indians and Mariners, who are only going to meet each other once on their respective home fields, play their first series in the warmer climate.

Why not find a way to compensate the Padres or Devil Rays for playing a handful more games at home in April than anyone else? This is the separate entity or greater good argument. I can see it each way. Why should the other owners collectively give up money to compensate teams in domes, Florida or the West Coast? Then again the East Coast clubs shouldn’t complain if they’re not willing to contribute in exchange for fewer postponements. Look how hard it was to get a revenue sharing system. I don’t see George Steinbrenner forking over more money to the hated Devil Rays since they play a few more home contests in April.

Finally, baseball is more popular today than it ever has been, but nobody wants to sit in 30 degree weather for three hours to see a ballgame.

The 2007 baseball season has not gotten off to a sunny start, and with bad weather descending from the Midwest to the East Coast look for more games to be delayed and/or cancelled. It will take all season to find out just how much the four-day whiteout will affect the Indians and their run at a division title.

Bring in Gordo, see what he can do with 30 teams, 162 games and six months of baseball. Whatever the primate does, it couldn’t possibly be a worse job.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget here why Milwaukee was chosen as the site of the next Indians series - Bud Selig's family ties to the Brewers. The team now gets 84 home games worth of revenue.

The only reason Chicago was chosen for the Marlins escaping Hurricane Ivan was that the Brewers were home for that stretch, and Chicago was the closest city.

Another possibility is that MLB contract the number of off-days in April. I never could understand a three game series played Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. That way, you push Opening Day back where there's less of a chance of freakish cold weather. But, of course, the prima donnas who play the game will blanch at the possibility of playing natural doubleheaders at any time during the season, let alone those that pile up due to rainouts.

Ben said...

MLB is probably pleased so many people showed up on such short notice tonight.