The Cubs have had three home games postponed already this season (and one on the road), and we’re barely to mid-April. One of those games (the home opener) has already been made up (the next day), and the other two have been rescheduled.
Those are three of 24 games that have been postponed across Major League Baseball. That’s the most in April since 2007 (26), and there’s still almost half a month to go. These have occurred in 10 cities: Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Kansas City, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Francisco and Toronto. Yes, Toronto, where they have a domed stadium. This is what happened in Toronto Monday:
Falling ice punctured a small hole in Rogers Centre roof ... pic.twitter.com/hd7p5Mujrn— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) April 16, 2018
And so, they will play a single-admission doubleheader Tuesday there, as the roof has now been fixed:
Anyway, back to the Cubs. I posted two articles on this topic Sunday, one noting the comments of Braves players and Cubs manager Joe Maddon regarding Saturday’s game, the other a long post about scheduling and weather suggesting that the Cubs pushed through with playing the game Saturday.
Turns out that’s not the case at all. Cubs spokesman Julian Green told me Monday, “The decision to cancel games is now made by Major League Baseball. Given the weather conditions Saturday, we did not believe they were suitable for play.”
No doubt, Green is correct regarding the weather conditions Saturday, which were not conducive to baseball at all. And this tweet from national writer Bob Nightengale regarding Sunday’s Royals/Angels game in Kansas City would appear to confirm Green’s statement:
Weather conditions in K.C. Sunday were atrocious:
The wind chill is hovering at 11 degrees right now for Shohei Ohtani’s start in an hour in KC— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) April 15, 2018
Nightengale’s full article on this would appear to indicate pressure was being put on the Royals to play because Shohei Ohtani was supposed to pitch and the game was scheduled for national TV:
Several players wondered aloud earlier in the day whether they had to play simply because Ohtani was scheduled to start for the Angels, in front of a national TV audience on Jackie Robinson Day.
Twenty-five minutes before Shohei Time, the show was cancelled.
Can you imagine MLB trying to explain itself if Ohtani had injured himself pitching in the 35-degree weather with a 21-degree wind-chill?
“I was a little worried about pitching in the cold weather,’’ Ohtani conceded after the postponement. “I couldn’t feel my fingertips. I couldn’t feel the ball. It was a concern of mine.’’
Given all this, I reached out to Major League Baseball for comment. MLB spokesman Michael Teevan told me via email:
We view each circumstance through the prism of the safety of everyone on the field and the comfort of fans in the stands. We have to consider various factors and the likelihood for a window in which we can play the game. In evaluating the best available information with the two teams, we take into account how a rescheduling situation would look - and whether it would comply with the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
This year’s schedule is based on 187 days instead of 183, a change agreed upon in the 2016 labor negotiations. As a result, there are additional off-days that can be used for rescheduling purposes.
Given the true statement that “there are additional off-days that can be used for rescheduling,” why is MLB apparently pressuring teams to play through January-like weather conditions? The statement says “the safety of everyone on the field and the comfort of fans in the stands” are important factors, but that really wasn’t the case Saturday at Wrigley Field, just to cite one example. The Cubs say they wanted to postpone Saturday’s game, as noted above. MLB should have let them do so.
No doubt, rescheduling games is not an easy task. Beyond the CBA rules cited (teams cannot play on more than 20 consecutive days unless the players vote to approve such a makeup game), there are logistics to be dealt with, from travel plans to getting enough gameday employees (security, ushers, concessions, etc.) to work in order to provide a safe environment and enough food and drink at the ballpark. It was good that the Cubs were able to postpone Monday’s game at 12:30 p.m., early enough so that no one, players, gameday workers, fans, had yet made the trek to Wrigley Field.
There’s also a lot of money involved in postponing a game, much more so than there was decades ago. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, games were postponed much more quickly than now, because playing doubleheaders was considered an ordinary fact of the game and teams didn’t hesitate to create them from postponed games. In 1966, for example, the Cubs played 20 doubleheaders. Nine of those twin bills resulted from reschedulings from various postponements. Due to the money involved, single-admission makeup doubleheaders aren’t scheduled now unless the teams have no other option. I get that.
Ultimately, we are talking about this because the weather across most of the Midwest and Northeast has been freakishly cold and wet this April. As I noted in Sunday’s weather article, we could just as easily have had weather this month like March 2012, when it was in the 80s in Chicago for nine straight days. There are some scheduling tweaks that could be made, as I suggested on Sunday, that would potentially avoid some of these issues. I repost these suggestions here:
To help avoid some of those postponements, MLB could at least have the three- or four-game opening weekend series scheduled in warm-weather cities or domes. For this purpose they could designate the following 14 teams as first-weekend hosts: Blue Jays, Rays, Angels, Astros, Mariners, Athletics, Rangers, Marlins, Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers and Padres, with the Nationals and Orioles alternating years as the 15th “warm-weather” host (considering it can still be somewhat cold in those places in late March).
That would be just one weekend. It would mean the other 15 teams would never open the season at home, but would you really want the Cubs hosting a four-game series at Wrigley the last weekend of March? Brrrrr. No. Nor the Twins in Minneapolis, Red Sox in Boston, etc.
The second thing that could be done would be to not schedule interleague games in cold-weather cities in April. There’s really no reason the Pirates should have opened the season in Detroit in late March. They had to postpone games in that series twice and play a doubleheader on April 1. That’s not optimal. Another first-week interleague series was played in Pittsburgh. Why do that?
Lastly, MLB could do its best to schedule no games in cold-weather cities outside the team’s division. For example, the Cubs/Braves series in Atlanta this year is in mid-May. Why do that? Why not schedule these teams in Atlanta in April, and in Chicago in May? It was in the 80s Friday and Saturday in Atlanta; today it’s rainy and in the 50s, but once the rain cleared they could have played in not-unreasonable temperatures.
Obviously, weather conditions are out of anyone’s control. And my Sunday post about centralizing weather decisions — well, I’m going to take that back. It’s clearer now that local choices are likely better, as teams are more familiar with local conditions and hopefully have better weather advice. Perhaps each team could employ a fulltime meteorologist instead of contracting out for the service. And MLB shouldn’t be in the position of forcing teams to play in unsuitable conditions that could result in injury.
The Cubs should get Tuesday night’s game in without any trouble, as it will be clear, although cold, with temperatures likely in the mid-30s. Wednesday afternoon, though, the forecast tells a different story:
A chance of rain and sleet before 10am, then rain. Some thunder is also possible. High near 39. East wind 10 to 15 mph becoming north northeast in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. Little or no sleet accumulation expected.
Snow, possibly mixed with rain before 1am, then a chance of snow. Low around 34. North northwest wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
If that forecast turns out to be accurate, I hope the Cubs will postpone the game Wednesday. And we can all hope for better weather going forward.