The Press Box Perspective: Should Opening Day Be Later?
By: Drew Zuhosky
A week and a half ago, Major League Baseball began its 2016 season, but under conditions that weren’t ideal in some parts of the country.
Consider April 4, Opening Day, where one game had to push back the first game of the season by 24 hours because of the weather.
That morning, the New York Yankees elected to postpone their home opener against the Houston Astros scheduled for 1:05 p.m. to April 5 after the forecast called for a chilly and rainy day.
Conditions weren’t much better in Cleveland, either. At just past 2:00 p.m. on April 5, with gates already open at Progressive Field and crowds waiting in line to enter the stadium for the Indians’ home opener versus the Boston Red Sox, the team decided that the game would be rained out until the next afternoon because of the unfavorable forecast.
Even for the series finale, the Indians and Red Sox were due to play at Progressive Field but about an hour and a half prior to the game’s 6:10 p.m. first pitch, the game was postponed, not because of rain, but also the threat of snow.
As far as the Indians rainout goes, the organization should have called the game earlier. It’s not a good idea to postpone when you’ve got a crowd in tow and waiting in line to go into the ballpark because there’s not much chance that those in line would be able to hear the announcement of a postponement.
Starting the MLB season in early April (or in some years, late March) is a risk that the Big Leagues have been taking for years now.
When you consider that in northern cities it can still snow as late as April, which was the casetwo years ago when the Detroit Tigers postponed an April 15 home game versus the Indians because of snow or when the Indians postponed an April 10, 2012 home game against the Chicago White Sox due to snow, MLB is taking a huge risk with an early start.
Let’s go back to 1995 for a moment. That year, after the infamous 1994 MLB strike canceled the rest of the previous season, including the playoffs and 1994 World Series, the season began a few weeks later than normal, on April 25.
Due to the 232-day strike, the 1995 season, which was slated to begin in early April with replacement players, was trimmed down to a 144-game slate.
Though the circumstances for the later start weren’t what MLB had in mind, it worked. With a late April start to the season, teams in colder cities avoided having rained or snowed out games because of chilly weather.
With the recent postponements, and since two teams lost Opening Day because of cold weather this year, I think MLB should seriously consider a later Opening Day.
To start, MLB would have to cut the length of the regular season down to about 140 to 150 games with Opening Day taking place in mid to late April, around April 17 or so.
By cutting down on the number of games and having a later Opening Day, this increases the chance of the postseason ending before the start of November. Last year’s postseason ended in the early morning hours of Nov. 2.
A measure like this would obviously require MLB and its owners to have a vote. If baseball ever decides to introduce this measure, I think it would pass.