Somewhere, the NFL must be smirking; that postman’s anthem playing in the background. You know, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet…” It’s not MLB they’re smirking at, but at the parade of curmudgeonly written columns lambasting baseball for their postseason schedule.
A prime example is from Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Carol Slezak (MLB has put fans in a cold snoreage), who starts her column today with, “Leave it to Major League Baseball to strip the joy out of the playoffs. The postseason should be a celebration, but it has become a mockery. There is no good reason for the playoffs to stretch into November. There is no justification for playing games in 30- or 40-degree weather, with wind chill indexes making it feel even colder than that. There is no good reason to subject the players or fans to these conditions time and again. Enough is enough.”
“Enough is enough” is right. I guess Slezak went all Rip Van Winkle on us and missed out on why baseball is being played in November in the first place.
To get this out of the way, baseball is always been a slave to the rain, summertime or not. So, every game in an open air stadium is at the mercy of Mother Nature. Secondly, the reason we’re about to see the World Series in November has to do with the World Baseball Classic bumping the schedule forward a week. The last time we had postseason play in November was in 2001, and lest I remind Slezak, that was due to 9/11. You have to go back to 1993 – pre-Division Series play, to get games played in early-to-mid October, so why the sudden outrange?
“We can blame the greedy TV networks and the inherent greed and arrogance of MLB for this mess,” says Slezak. Well, if you see the WBC as a cash grab, lacking in entertainment and growing the sport internationally, so be it.
Where Slezak and other columnists on this harp-on-MLB’s-scheduling-due-to-the-weather joyride should be focusing their attention is the total length of the season when coupled with the addition of the Division Series.
Let the politics come into play. As if columnists hadn’t heard, billion dollar industries run by multi-million dollar owners, engage in internal politics. Baseball is no different.
In Slezak’s world, it’s toasty-warm in mid-October, instead of late October (remember, the WBC only comes around every three years, so this year’s November games are an exception, not the rule). So, maybe MLB, should listen to the scheduling naysayers, and drop a couple of weeks of the regular season to possibly protect fans from the cold and wind (this is where those NFL officials are smirking). Owners aren’t interested in dropping regular season games (read revenues) to try and get games in out of the wind, chill, and possibly rain, when you can’t guarantee that doing so meets the needs of those going to games when it’s a bit nippy.
What this really boils down to is East Coast fans and media, and here’s why:
- The average temperature for the 2009 postseason, to date: 57
- Average temp for ALCS: 55
- Average temp for NLCS: 63
- Average temp for games at Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Park: 47
- Coldest game: 35 (Game 3 of NLDS between the Rockies and Phillies. Tied for most cold game time start with Game 4 of the 1997 World Series between the Marlins and Indians in Cleveland. Played on Oct. 22, not in November)
- Warmest 2009 postseaon game, to date: 93 (Game 2, NLCS from Dodger Stadium)
OK, so let's throw the temps out the window, and try come up with a solution for the Slezaks of the world: MLB goes the neutral site location route. Put the World Series in Southern California, where precious feet and fingers don’t get cold. I’m sure this will make the Dodgers, Angels, and Padres happy, but the rest of the owners? Fat chance. Well, we could always go to locations that have roofs on their facilities. In that case, the majority of the league would be unable to host games, so there’s strike two.
Look, is it a perfect world with baseball and the weather? No. But, that’s mostly for the players on the field in the rain. As for the cold, the players would surely say, “Bundle up; no excuses.”
What this really is about is fans growing soft. Or more correctly, the likes of Slezak, who perched from the pressbox at worst, or from the comfy confines of the office watch the game at best, are looking for something to gripe about. Maybe she should cover the Brewers. After all, they have a roof, since the White Sox and Cubs, don’t. The nerve of them.
There are no good solutions. Call it greed – what have you – cutting a couple of weeks out of the regular season to try and get warmer weather is a gamble, at best. Dropping the WBC is out of the question for the same reasons. Neutral sites? Ditto.
Such is outdoor games. Such is baseball. Maybe the real solution is too just make the regular and postseason run from mid-June to mid-Sept. What do you think the chances are that a column calling for games to not be played in the sweltering heat might surface? You want to gripe about something, gripe about the play on the field. At least there, the comments have more merit.
OTHER NEWS FROM THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK
(THE BIZ OF FOOTBALL)
(THE BIZ OF HOCKEY)
(THE BIZ OF BASKETBALL)
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.
Follow Maury Brown on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook