Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Baseball Is Not A Winter Sport

The Major League Baseball season is too long. The regular season begins in early April and extends, if your team is good enough, into late October, and possibly November. What ends up happening is that the most important games of the season – the playoffs and the World Series – are often played in some of the foulest weather we've seen all year.

For baseball fans, this is an insult. How often have we watched World Series games played in freezing temperatures, with snow, sleet, or rain disrupting games and performances? When this happens, we are not getting the best out of the men on the field. The players, teams, and fans are cheated out of optimal performances because of weather.

How competitive is baseball when pitchers are unable to grip a ball properly? How competitive is it when fielder's gloves are stiff from the cold, and no matter how skilled is the man wearing it, balls often bounce off and skitter away? Have you ever tried to catch a baseball with a frozen glove? It doesn't matter how good you are, and baseball played that way is inferior.

This is not how baseball – especially in the World Series – is supposed to be played.

Yes, high school and college games are often played in bitter cold, long before spring flowers show themselves. That's different. There is no other way for schools to get their games in. There is a better way in professional baseball, and that involves shortening the season.

I don't like the idea of seeing fewer games, but I am tired of watching subpar play during the post season. It is not a matter of a pitcher sucking it up and trying harder. When it is 30°, it is virtually impossible for a pitcher to get the proper grip on a baseball in order to throw breaking balls: curveballs, cutters, sliders, change-ups, etc. It's not as difficult to throw a two or four-seam fastball when your hand and the ball are frozen, but it is still a problem.

Why must we have the most important games of the MLB season played when it is nearly impossible for the players to perform anywhere near top form?

Mostly, it's because of money. Those who profit from sports, do so when more games are played. The Fox Network people know that baseball fans will watch the World Series regardless of the weather (and regardless of Joe Buck, but that's a whole other story). They are pushing quantity over quality, and that is not okay.

Do you watch the World Series when the players are bundled up like they're getting ready to run the Iditarod? Are you thrilled to see the MLB Champion crowned because they managed to be less affected by cold temps, snow, or freezing drizzle?

According to meteorologist Brian Edwards of Accuweather.com, the coldest World Series game in recent memory was in 1997, Game Four, in Cleveland. Game time temperature was 38°, with a wind chill of 18°, and it got worse from there. Edwards recalls that "snow flurries fell throughout the game and ice patches formed on the infield."

That's not baseball – it's enduring a brutal Siberian Gulag.

The solution involves going back to the way baseball was played in the past. That is, arrange the season so Championship games are still played in reasonably warm – baseball – weather. This could involve going back to a pre-1961 schedule by playing only 154 games. Or, realign both leagues to return to just two divisions in each league, thereby eliminating the Divisional Series and the Wild Card games.

Baseball is a summer sport. Unfortunately, the modern version of the game has the most important games of the year too often played in brutal winter weather. Let's bring the sport back to the way it should be, so we can watch the playoffs and World Series with players able to operate in peak form.
Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'Twisted Logic: 50 Edgy Flash Fiction Stories', 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'. His books are available in paperback and e-book.

He also writes about sports for Season Tickets, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

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