Despite complaints, postponements are really no big deal
It snowed in Denver yesterday, and on Monday as well. As a result, the Rockies and Mets managed to play just two games of their intended three-game series this week, squeezing both in on Tuesday in a day/night doubleheader played in bitter cold and in front of an almost empty ballpark. Wednesday also saw rain cancel games in Chicago and Minneapolis. Last week, the last two games of the Yankees' four-game set against the Indians in Cleveland were rained out, prompting New York skipper Joe Girardi to criticize the schedule makers.
"I don't think you can go to cold-weather cities [in April] if you only go there one time," said Girardi after the second postponement. "I think you have to stay within your division the first month. Or, I know teams want night games, but if we would have had a day game today, it gives you a longer window to play the game."
Girardi's criticisms sound reasonable and fair until you think about them for a moment. Is the idea to prevent teams in cold weather cities from playing any home games in April? I mean, the Rockies, Twins, Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Pirates all play in stadiums without retractable domes in what could be considered cold-weather cities. That's more than a third of the league, and precipitation levels in the Bay Area are far higher in April than in any other month of the regular season, so perhaps the schedule makers should avoid San Francisco and Oakland as well.
Limiting those teams to intradivision home games in April, all played during the day would have its problems as well given how much of the schedule that would consume and the resulting lack of compelling intradivision matchups in other months. As for the day games, it doesn't make much sense to schedule games when most fans are at work or school on the small chance that it will rain in the evening but not in the afternoon. There have been 10 postponements already this season, all in the cities named above (Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Denver and Pittsburgh), but it seems that there's little the schedule-makers can do to try to prevent them in future seasons.
Nor does it seem particularly important that they do so. Per post last week by The Sports Quotient's Michael Garn, the Red Sox have led the majors in home games postponed by weather per season over the last decade . . . with just more than three. Indeed, no city has seen more than two postponements yet this season, one of those 10 postponements has already been made up, and, again per Garn, nearly 40 percent of all postponements occur in April. That means that Girardi is right to focus on the location of games in the season's first month, but also that he, and those who have echoed his complaints, are overreacting to a small sample due to the brevity of the young season (stop me if you've heard that one before).
That doesn't mean that postponements aren't a nuisance. Of the nine postponed games thus far this season that haven't been made up (the Mets and Rockies did makeup Monday's snow-out on Tuesday), six feature matchups that are not scheduled to reoccur in the cities in which they were postponed, including both Yankee games in Cleveland, Mets games in Minnesota and Colorado and Wednesday's Angels game at Target Field and Rangers game at Wrigley Field. That means the Mets and Twins will have to forfeit two off-days to make-up those games (they already have their head-to-head makeup scheduled for a would-be off-day on Monday, Aug. 19), while the Yankees and Indians have had to fill an off-day with a double-header on Monday, May 13. Still, none of that is a major disruption to the season. Assuming they get Thursday's game in, and the weather forecast suggests they will, the Mets, who had three games postponed in four days from Sunday through Wednesday, will only have one starting pitcher working on more than a single extra day of rest the next time through the rotation. That would be fifth starter Jeremy Hefner, who should start on Saturday against the Nationals on nine days' rest. As the weather warms up, the few postponements that clumped up in April will be made up, and everyone will forget how problematic it all seemed when the season was less than three weeks old until next season, when we'll do this all over again.