Every year, we wait with great anticipation for the most exciting day of the baseball regular season – Opening Day.
This year, because the stooge owners and their clown mouthpiece locked the players out, we waited a little longer; but nevertheless as the buntings started to be hung, the freshly painted logos began to adorn the fields, and the dreams of 162 and 0 filled every fan’s head, instead of hearing “Play Ball,” some fans heard “MLB regrets to inform you that due to inclement weather….” Pop! And the air went right out of the balloon of excitement.
From 1876 to 1989 Cincinnati enjoyed the privilege of hosting the “opener of openers.” First pitch in The Queen City was the big kickoff to a new season. Amazingly during that time it was only in 1877 and 1966 that the opener of openers had to be changed to being on the road due to weather. The game of baseball, steeped in tradition, stopped the traditional Cincy opener and instead had the Reds open in Cincinnati in 1990. Wait, has MLB realized that there might be a way to manage the schedule to perhaps keep cold weather teams in warm weather areas for an extra week? Wouldn’t that make sense?
Of course it would — so naturally MLB, in their infinite wisdom, certainly hasn’t even considered it.
Now clearly building a 162-game schedule for 30 teams while taking into consideration travel, the All-Star break, a game at the Field of Dreams or in Mexico or London or San Juan, is very difficult. Surely they must use some HAL-like super computer that spits out the schedule. Maybe the schedule rises up from the mound at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. But actually, nope, for 25 years it was put together by a couple from Staten Island named Henry and Holly Stephenson. Listen, I know Mudville isn’t the epicenter of all that’s glorious, but Staten Island? And on top of that a couple of folks sitting around a table like they’re trying to figure who needs to sit with whom at a wedding? (There is an excellent ESPN “30 for 30” episode on this topic, by the way.) Maybe it’s not as difficult after all as I thought — this whole schedule making thing.
I feel as though we say this every year but I can’t help myself so I’ll say it again. With nearly half the teams in MLB based in warmer weather cities or having stadiums with a roof, along with interleague play, do we need the Diamondbacks playing the Padres while the Mariners play in Minnesota? Do we really need Houston playing in Anaheim while the Mets are in DC? It seems so simple yet it becomes so hard. Don’t get me wrong, an opening series of the Yankees vs. the Red Sox is a great way to get right into it — but did the fans who had planned to go to last Thursday’s opener really need to juggle their schedules to attend Friday if they were even able to go at all? Building in some extra off days in the beginning of the season to account for the weather is a fine strategy; but if the players had their choice, I’m sure they would prefer those days come in July or August.
In the not-too-distant past, we rooted for rainouts because the next day we would get to go to a good, old fashioned double-header. One ticket, two games. What a day that was. Six hours in the ballpark to catch a couple of games, eat a half-dozen hot dogs, and build a memory you would never forget. I once attended a double dip at old Jarry Park in Montreal as the Expos hosted the Pirates and got to see Willie “Pops” Stargell hit a homer into the pool beyond right field. I could have stayed all day. Now those double-headers are usually split — one ticket per game — and there is slim chance both games will be played in under seven hours. While MLB tinkers with what they believe the fans want to make the game more interesting, maybe dropping a couple of traditional double-headers into the schedule might be a thought they’d consider. Scratch that, there’s revenue loss attached to that plan so it’s not happening.
Maybe I’m just complaining for the sake of complaining about Opening Day weather interruptions. I mean I’ve been to many an opener here in Mudville where the weather was perfect. Or maybe I’m just beating yet another dead horse in my effort to provide common sense solutions to MLB’s problems. Who knows? I’ll let you decide — or tell me I’m stuck in loving the game I grew up with and need to just change with the times and take what MLB gives me and like it.
In the meantime, there’s a little bit of joy in Mudville this week because the 162 is now underway. Now if I could only figure out this blackout restriction thing, all would be good.