Late postseason a gamble baseball will eventually lose
NEW YORK -- Everybody knows the problem.
Push baseball back into late October, there's a bigger chance of bad weather. Push it into November, and the chances go up again.
The decision to push the postseason this late into the year comes with the threat of rain or possibly worse. (AP)
As colleague Mike Freeman said just after baseball wisely postponed Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night, they're playing with fire -- or rain.
At least baseball officials had the sense to call Saturday's game early, and at least the forecast for the next couple of days in New York doesn't include any more rain. There was no reason to try to play Saturday, risking delays, horrible playing conditions and maybe something like what happened in Game 5 of last year's World Series.
Now they play Game 6 on Sunday, they play Game 7 if needed on Monday, and they still start the World Series on schedule Wednesday night. Saturday's rainout could end up benefitting the Angels, but it's not a disaster for anyone, except perhaps the television people who didn't want to program a Game 7 against Monday Night Football.
This one wasn't a disaster. The next one could be.
Or the one after that.
Push the postseason later and later, and the weather becomes more and more of a problem. And the worst thing for baseball is that it's a problem without a good solution.
Couldn't they take all these extra off days out of the postseason? Sure, but not if you want the World Series to start on a Wednesday. The TV people insisted on a Wednesday start for better ratings, and baseball agreed. Don't count on them changing it back to Saturday.
Couldn't they shorten the first round from best-of-5 to best-of-3? Not likely. There's been more of a push to lengthen it to seven games than to shorten it to three. Couldn't they start the regular season earlier? Then you run into weather problems in all the northern cities in March, instead of in a few cities in November.
Couldn't they shorten the regular season? With the average attendance at 30,000 a game, you show me an owner who will be willing to give up any home dates. And show me a player who will take a pay cut to play fewer games.
How about scheduling doubleheaders? Same answer. With 30,000 average attendance in ballparks that hold about 40,000, you show me where it makes financial sense to play two games for one admission. Besides, with 21st century attention spans, you show me a fan who is willing to sit through two games in one day.
But if you're not going to crunch the off days out of the postseason, and you're not going to shorten any of the series, and you're not going to start the regular season earlier, and you're not going to shorten the regular season, and you're not going to schedule doubleheaders ...
Then you're going to get a lot more postseason postponements (and a lot more columns about postseason postponements!).
Perhaps they could start the regular season just half a week earlier, beginning on a Wednesday or Thursday instead of on a Sunday night. Then they could end the season at midweek, too, starting the playoffs a few days earlier and removing enough off days to bring the World Series forward by one week.
Perhaps, except so far baseball has shown little interest in such a move.
A few more nights like Saturday, or a few nights a lot worse than Saturday, and maybe that interest would increase.
The facts are simple.
In 1968, Game 7 of the World Series was played on Oct. 10. In 1987, Game 7 was played on Oct. 25. A Game 7 this year would be on Nov. 5, and the preliminary schedule for next year would place it on Nov. 4.
Average rainfall in New York in October is 3½ inches. Average rainfall in New York in November is 4 inches.
It's no different in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago or any other northern city. Even in Southern California, there's a lot bigger chance of November rain than October rain, although out there we're talking an 8/10ths of an inch average in November, as opposed to a quarter of an inch in October.
Don't even ask what happens if the Twins, with their new open-air stadium, make the World Series again. Good luck finishing that World Series before spring training begins.
At least Saturday it was just rain, a storm that just as easily could have postponed a game in July.
One of these times, it's going to be a snowstorm that settles in and makes the field unplayable for a week. We know that's what we're heading for. Everybody knows it.
And baseball still doesn't have a good solution. http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/story/12416097