Saturday, September 10, 2011

As the playoffs loom...

We’re now in the last lap of the 2011 season, the games left now less than 2 dozen. Which teams will make it into this year’s playoffs is becoming more and more clear; some are already foregone conclusions. Who knows how it will all shake out? One thing I do know is that once the last of 2011’s game dust settles, it will be very late. In fact it might well be too late.

Baseball has been playing a dangerous game of chicken with fall weather for years, allowing the season to end later and later as broadcasting demands change. The bottom line is always top of mind with baseball’s owners and they want to milk the playoffs for every last dime.

The overriding idea seems to be that folks are more inclined to watch games on the weekend than during the week. Scheduling is predicated around that. Compounding the problem is the college football season starting up, not to mention the NFL. Here in Canada, it’s hockey.

As our weather patterns are changing, weird things are happening. It can become unseasonably cold at unexpected times. Rain is certainly in the mix with hurricanes being the really frightening factor in MLB’s playoff scheduling. Unlike football, baseball can’t be played in rain or snow. If it gets too cold, that isn’t good either with the game suffering as pitchers can’t hold the ball properly and batters’ hands suffer from badly hit balls. Generally, good baseball can’t be played in bad weather. And the playoffs is where fans expect to see the best baseball.

Now we’re looking at another, albeit shorter, round being added to the playoff schedule. It will be talked about this offseason and seems to have increasing support among owners and players. Who wouldn’t want an additional chance to make the playoffs?

Problem is, sooner or later baseball is going to reach the tipping point. Many teams play outdoors in climates known for dicey fall weather. Detroit and Milwaukee seem posed to play in October this year, Minnesota might be back in the hunt again next year. All of these teams could face lengthy delays due to inclement weather, and one of these days it will happen. Can you imagine a World Series being unable to finish due to bad weather? To expect to play in northern cities in November is asking for trouble, yet we’re heading in that direction.

Anybody have thoughts on this? What sort of contingency plans MLB should put in place? Should the season go back to the 154 games so the playoffs could start in late September? Does anybody really want to watch baseball in a frozen stadium in November?


Will Braund said...

The season must be shortened to 154 games - and get rid of inter-league play while you're at it - if they are thinking of another playoff round. They will have to threaten owners that their playoff home games will be moved to indoor parks if it is too cold.

Rick Blechta said...

I think that's the only logical thing to do -- but the owners of non-contending teams will want those additional games, or some sort of compensation.

Want to bet that logic doesn't reign supreme and we wind up with the worst-case scenario?