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Here’s how MLB’s 2023 schedule plan could lead to disaster

They haven’t considered lousy April weather in many northern cities.

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Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

It happens every year. You can mark it down on your calendar.

The baseball season begins and April weather in Chicago and other northern cities turns back to winter.

This results in games being played in less-than-optimal conditions, particularly when the opponent for the Cubs or other northern teams only comes through town once.

We saw this last week when the Tampa Bay Rays visited Wrigley Field (and also Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side) for a week, and as I noted in the recap to Wednesday’s soggy, rain-shortened game, weather conditions were awful for all six games the Rays played in Chicago:

April 15: 47 degrees, cloudy
April 16: 44 degrees, sunny
April 17: 41 degrees, cloudy
April 18: 40 degrees, cloudy
April 19: 42 degrees, cloudy
April 20: 51 degrees, overcast, rain

Then the Cubs played a four-game series against the Pirates where one game was rescheduled due to rain and another delayed nearly an hour by rain. In all, the Cubs’ seven-game homestand had one nice day — Saturday, when temperatures briefly soared above 80 degrees.

Some of this is unavoidable because with 15 teams in each league, there has to be at least one interleague series going on at all times. This occasionally results in situations like last week, where the Rays were scheduled to visit Wrigley in April. It also happened in 2018, when the Braves and Cubs played a game in perhaps the worst conditions ever at Wrigley — because it was Atlanta’s only visit and the forecast the next day was worse, and the league didn’t want to have to try to make up two postponements. It happened again in 2019, when a Cubs/Angels game scheduled for April 14 was snowed out, and the Angels had to fly from Seattle to Chicago for the makeup game, then return home to Anaheim the next day.

None of this is optimal. This year’s schedule, and the way MLB has scheduled things since 2013, has 14 teams visiting Wrigley Field: The 10 other NL teams and the White Sox, Rays, Red Sox and Orioles.

Now, Major League Baseball wants even more teams to make road visits, per this Jayson Stark article in The Athletic from last month:

56 Games in Division — 14 vs. each division rival
60 Games vs. Rest of League — 6 vs. each remaining team in league
46 Games of Interleague Play — 3 games apiece vs. 14 teams in other league; 4 games vs. “natural” rival

If that schedule is in fact adopted, that would mean 18 different teams would visit Wrigley beginning in 2023 — the 10 other NL teams, the “natural” rival (in this case the White Sox), and seven of the 14 other teams in the AL (the Cubs would visit the other seven). That’s four more visiting clubs, every year, than there are now.

This is just asking for trouble. This scheme would have 14 teams making exactly one visit to Wrigley Field. You can’t have all of those road games in the “good weather” months. Many of them are going to have to be in April, likely more than there are now. This is just asking for more weather postponements — or games played in awful weather conditions — in the 15 ballparks in cities without domed stadiums where weather can be bad in April: Both Chicago parks, both New York parks, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas City, St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington and Cincinnati.

Look, I understand why MLB wants to schedule this way. It’s an attempt to have all of MLB’s star players appear in every ballpark at least every other year, instead of once every six years (for some) the way schedules are drawn up now. This is an eminently reasonable idea.

But with 15-team leagues, it’s just not feasible. When expansion comes — whenever that happens, and it still could be several years away — and 16 teams are in both the NL and AL, well, then it would be easy to schedule only divisional games in April. That way, if bad weather intervenes, makeup games could easily be rescheduled for future visits by divisional teams.

Now, though? Do this scheduling scheme in 2023 and the inevitable result will be either more postponed games, more games played in horrendous weather conditions, or both. And in 2023, we’re not going to have a lockout and the MLB schedule will likely begin on Thursday, March 30. Brrrrr.

MLB moguls ought to pay more attention to April (and March!) weather conditions in northern cities and wait until expansion comes to institute the proposed schedule listed above.

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