Wojo: Weather-weary Tigers dealt a cold mess
Detroit — It’s unprecedented and partly unavoidable, a problem without an apparent solution, unless shaking your fist at the clouds actually does make the rain and sleet go away. But major-league baseball has to figure something out with its schedule, because this is absurd.
The game is suffering all across the country in horrible weather, but the Tigers have suffered more than anyone with six postponements. They hoped to squeeze in at least one game of a doubleheader against the Yankees on Sunday but as ice snapped power lines and drizzle fell, they had no choice and called off both, well before the gates opened.
It’s as if the season hasn’t even truly started yet. Six games in the majors were postponed Sunday, the most in a single day in 10 years. There have been 21 postponements so far, astonishing considering there were 39 all last season.
But hey, it’s the heavens, what can you do? Well, something can be done and should be done, because this is unfair to everyone — the fans, the players, the stadium workers, the game itself.
You can’t change the weather, as far as I know. You can’t change the stadiums, unless bargain retractable roofs are laying around for $200 million or so. You can’t change the length of the season because a reduction from 162 to 154 games would be a reduction in revenue.
But yes, you can change future schedules, in relatively subtle ways. It was already ridiculous that cold-weather teams frequently open at home, but it became worse when the openers were moved up to March 29. The idea was to avoid having the World Series spill into November, and the players also collectively bargained four extra off-days during the season, which stretched it out.
It’s as if baseball’s schedule-makers don’t look at weather patterns, or don’t weigh the issue heavily enough. The Tigers began with six straight at home — naturally, Opening Day was postponed — and 15 of the first 22. That’s before kids are out of school. That’s before ice-scrapers are stowed back in the garage. That makes no sense.
The argument is, warm-weather teams don’t want a majority of home games at the start either, and don’t want to be stuck on the road in a pennant race late in the season. You know what I say to that? Tough (bleep). For some teams that historically draw less — Miami, Tampa Bay, Arizona, San Diego — it doesn’t really matter when they play at home. Places like Texas, Houston, Los Angeles and Anaheim should want to play at home in the spring rather than the heat of summer.
It’ll take more than the Tigers complaining or campaigning to change it. The Yankees certainly can’t be happy they have to hop back to Detroit on June 4, in the midst of a road trip, to play a day-night doubleheader. The Tigers aren’t ecstatic about it either, although they like their odds of better weather in June. But the MLB draft also starts June 4 and the Tigers have the No. 1 pick.
It was further complicated because this is the Yankees’ only trip to Detroit. If this was a common division opponent, there’d be numerous return trips for the makeup games. So why does MLB foolishly schedule one-visit teams so early, when weather is commonly an issue?
Several warm-weather teams did begin at home, so MLB isn’t completely blind to the issue. It still gets nonsensical at times. The Angels and Athletics (two California teams, last I checked) opened against each other. The Astros and Rangers (two Texas teams, last I checked), opened against each other. The Dodgers’ first seven games were against San Francisco and Arizona.
I understand baseball isn’t compelled to overreact to one bizarre spring, but it’s not necessarily just one spring — even when games aren’t postponed, the conditions are terrible. In Chicago on Saturday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was livid they were forced to play in 38-degree temperatures with 24-mph winds, even though the Cubs rallied from a 10-2 deficit to beat the Braves 14-10.
“The elements were horrific to play baseball in,” Maddon said. “That is the worst elements I ever participated in in a baseball game, ever.”
Maddon suggested MLB needs to consider all inclement conditions, including cold and wind, not just precipitation. And sure enough, the Braves only make one trip to Chicago, which added to the pressure to play.
It was the same situation in Kansas City and almost became a huge controversy Sunday, with Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani scheduled to pitch. It was the Angels’ only visit to Kansas City, and Royals GM Dayton Moore told USA Today that MLB was insisting the game be played in 30-degree weather, then finally relented, and it was postponed.
Obviously, this is not just a Detroit issue. An entire three-game White Sox-Twins series in Minneapolis was just snowed out.
The Tigers’ six postponements already represent the most in a single season at Comerica Park since it opened in 2000. Attendance suffers, and so does the quality of the game. They’ve scored one run or fewer six times in 13 games and hit a paltry five home runs, although let’s be honest, that has a lot to do with a stripped-down lineup.
And again, some schedule quirks make no sense — the Tigers don’t play a warm-climate game until May 7 at Texas. Manager Ron Gardenhire and players are careful not to belabor the weather factor, but it’s the (frozen) elephant in the room.
“I don’t like to make excuses, but if you’d told me during spring training that we’d have the minimal number of home runs we have as a team, I would’ve laughed,” Tigers catcher James McCann said. “Anytime it’s cold, it’s tough to hit. I don’t want to say baseball’s not meant to be played in the cold, but it’s a different game when it’s in the cold.”
Different for the players, bitterly different for the fans. The weather isn’t fixable or predictable, but a little common-sense scheduling might make it more bearable.