I was out and about yesterday evening “working the radio dial” in my car, and I stumbled across what sounded like a baseball game. It turned out to be the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves Spring Training game (over the Nats’ radio network). So while driving I listened for a few minutes and the Washington commentators started talking about the schedule and how the Nats had an 11-game home stand after starting the season on the road. (This corresponds with a 10-game Oriole road trip.) In their case that’s the longest home stand they have in 2012, and to take it a step further they were saying that the Nationals don’t see the Braves or the Phillies in the first month of the season.
I had never really considered when you play your division rivals, but the Nationals’ broadcasters made a very valid point in my book. In April you tend to see a few more rainouts here and there due to the fact that the weather can be so unpredictable at times. Certainly in some years the weather can be so nice that you’re ready to run outside and read Mother Goose nursery rhymes to your kids, but in other years you have the whole “April showers” thing going. However for the most part if you’re playing non-division teams in April that might be the only time that you see that team in your home schedule. So if by chance you have a rainout, it’s much more difficult to make that game up down the road.
It’s easy enough to say that you can choose an off day for both teams, however sometimes teams are between trips in other cities and that’s where things get hairy. Ironically this is a bad example because it involves a division team, however remember the brouhaha that ensued at the end of last season when the O’s and Yankees had to make up a game? A game at Camden Yards had been rained out in April, and the O’s rescheduled the game for September 8th (an off day for both teams). That was to be an off day for both teams, originally in Toronto for the O’s and on the west coast for NY. Yankee manager Joe Girardi complained that his team was being unfairly forced to stay on the east coast to play a game in Baltimore, and he even said that it would be much easier for his squad to play the game as part of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. (In a stroke of civility, he even offered to charitably give the Orioles half of the prospective gate revenue for the makeup game at Yankee Stadium which would have been an Oriole home game.) Luckily the Orioles paid no attention to Girardi, and rescheduled the game at their convenience.
My point in bringing that up is not to rekindle bad tidings between the clubs, but to show the difficulty in rescheduling games at the end of the season. Most teams don’t like doubleheaders at any point in time, but certainly not in April. If one of the Orioles’ games against Minnesota in the first series of the year is rained out, when do they make that up? The Twins don’t return to Baltimore in 2012. (The O’s do go to Minneapolis in July; that’s the kind of situation that could result in the O’s having to play a “home game” on the road.)
I had never thought of that point in the past, however I think that the Nationals’ radio announcer was onto something. Starting next year the Houston Astros will be moving to the AL, and supposedly we’ll see an interleague game every day of the season as opposed to simply in blocks. I’d love for baseball to put an onus on playing a few extra division games earlier on in the season to avoid weird circumstances in having to make up games at the end. At the very least if a game gets rained out it can be made up the next time that team comes to town as opposed to having to scramble to get a team into a city for one game in September or something along those lines. To go a step further, I’d like to see baseball put more of an emphasis on playing the first two weeks or so of the season in indoor ballparks or in the south. Allow teams such as Tampa, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, LA, and San Diego to open the season at home and have the northern teams from colder climates such as Baltimore, Washington, NY, Philly, and Boston play there. You cut down on the chance that games will be rained or even snowed out, and once the third week of April rolls around normally it starts to warm up in this region. I suspect that attendance would probably improve for weeknight games as a result. Then again, you play 162 games (81 home and 81 away)…you’re going to get them all in some way!
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