Lots of digital ink has been spilled on the subject of cold weather and baseball as it’s been an unusually cold spring across the northeastern half of the United States. The cold has resulted in a lot of undesirable results with games being cancelled due to weather, and more games played when they should have been cancelled because it was the only time the opposing team would be visiting. A lot of solutions have been proposed, but most have issues. There is one relatively simple solution that I haven’t seen proposed yet, but makes a ton of sense in my mind.
The most common proposed solution is to simply schedule the first couple weeks to be played in warm weather or indoor stadiums. However, the warm weather teams don’t like this solution because April games are generally not a big draw. The cold weather teams don’t like it either, because it makes for a long, long road trip and potentially a delayed home opener.
Another solution is to require stadiums to be retrofitted with a roof, or in a more moderate take, require new stadiums to be built with one. This solution is impractical for several reasons. A Safeco-style roof helps with precipitation, but allows the stadium to be open to the elements. It actually puts all of the seats in the shade, which can make them feel colder. Meanwhile, a more typical retractable roof takes up space, adds significant cost, and doesn’t provide a true open-air stadium experience.
Others, myself included, believe that the season starts too early. This problem is also difficult to remedy, however. Owners are unlikely to shorten the season, or add more double headers in the summer to make Opening Day later in the year, because they will lose revenue by doing so, and baseball, at heart, is still a business. Meanwhile, the players got the extra off-days added to the last CBA, and with the union already appearing to be a weak position, they will be unlikely to give this up.
The best solution I have is a minor tweak to the schedule, and the league could probably make it work. Rather than trying to avoid the weather, simply accept the possibility, and account for it. The way the league could do this is to schedule divisional games more heavily in the early part of the season. The Twins, for example, play divisional opponents only ten times in their first 46 games, and a total of only 17 times during the months of April and May. Instead of a trip to Pittsburgh, send them to play the Detroit Tigers. If the game does get postponed, it can easily be made up on a later trip. Instead of sending Seattle to Minnesota, send the White Sox or the Royals. Have the Pirates start the season in Cincinnati instead of Detroit. Yes, this adds an extra wrinkle for the schedule makers, but it shouldn’t be impossible. They have to get those games in anyway, and it only really impacts the first couple weeks of the season. After the middle of April, it should warm up most places.
It doesn’t even affect every team. You can still send teams to Toronto or Milwaukee, because they play inside. You can still schedule inter-league games to be played in Houston, San Diego, and other warm weather places. Its only about a dozen teams to worry about, and most of them have division rivals equally impacted by the cold.
My proposed solution is probably a response to a non-issue. Most Aprils aren’t this cold this long in this many places. But it can, and does happen, and the league can’t project it when they make the schedule. A simple tweak would make a much better experience for the teams and the fans, and is really a win-win. Keep the inter-league and inter-divisional games in the middle parts of the schedule. It only requires moving a couple series around.