Sitting down to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates / Chicago Cubs season opener yesterday afternoon, the first thing I was greeted with was footage of PNC Park early yesterday morning with snow flurries flying around the field, making batting practice nearly impossible and the sight lines basically non-existent.
Luckily for the Pirates and Cubs, the weather subsided, and what could have been a snowout on Opening Day, instead just turned into a chilly afternoon. This, as we know, isn’t always the case.
With the MLB‘s insistence on starting the baseball season in early April — during a time when many regions in the country are just starting to get out from under the fog of a harsh winter — there is the perpetual risk that games are lost due to bad weather. While I wasn’t able to locate any concrete statistics on just how often this happens, we see it every season, and it’s certainly a part of the 162-game slate.
Games are cancelled in April due to snow, sleet, or some bizarre combination of both in cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Philadelphia — cities in the Upper Northeast who don’t see the end of winter until, hopefully, May 1st. Just ask Denver how reliable that May 1st date is — they’ll be happy to tell you tales of mid-May snow.
With the advent of retractable roof stadiums, the risk involved with starting the season in early April has ameliorated somewhat, but can never be eliminated for the older ballparks that have no roof or for those newer parks that decided to go without one for whatever reason.
With the risk of bad weather in colder climates being so prevalent early on — and in fact, just as prevalent during post-season play — the MLB should be very careful about its April scheduling to ensure the playing field stays level, and teams in bad climates don’t get stuck with day-night doubleheaders later in the summer, or back-to-back-to-back series due to something completely out of their control.
It’s one of those intangibles that can’t be controlled and isn’t easily affected, but bad weather will continue to loom in cold climate cities in April until the start of the season is pushed back to May, shortened, or the MLB comes to its senses and takes more care about how early season games are scheduled.
I’m a big proponent of this, but I’m hardly holding my breath for it.
As we all know, the MLB isn’t exactly a bastion of change.