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Early-season MLB scheduling can be messy

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After the game was called off, Red Sox pitcher David Price went into right field and did some throwing to bullpen catcher Mani Martinez.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

CLEVELAND — The trail of rock salt leading up to the media gate at Progressive Field was probably a giveaway there would be no baseball game there Monday.

Any time a cold, biting wind makes it painful to walk around, and when snowflakes, followed by a cold, intermittent rain make you feel like you can't stretch your ligaments, you know that attempting to play is fraught with peril.

"What do you expect when they make us come to Cleveland," said Red Sox DH David Ortiz after Opening Day was called off because of inclement weather.

Monday was a perfect example of why Major League Baseball shouldn't try to play openers in Cleveland, or Detroit, or Boston, or Minneapolis, or New York, or Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh, or anywhere where the risk of cold makes it ridiculous to play a summer game.


But the week prior to this was mild weather-wise. And in 2015, Opening Day saw few weather issues. But when circumstances such as Monday's occur — with postponements in Cleveland and New York, and two long rain delays in Baltimore — you ask yourself, why does MLB schedule openers in cities where it could be cold?

The biggest reason? Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said it's because teams based in warm climates feel they would have a revenue disadvantage by hosting so many games early and then having to hit the road during peak attendance periods during the summer.

The league is sympathetic to those concerns. And more baseball people are starting to understand them.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was asked Monday if he had any ideas on scheduling, and he said, "Not really, scheduling is hard."

Dombrowski said he learned about scheduling from David Montgomery, the Phillies' chairman and former team president who served on the MLB scheduling committee. Dombrowski said that once Montgomery learned about all the things that went in to scheduling for 30 teams, he vowed to never complain about the Phillies' schedule again.


Doesn't it make sense to have teams from the Northeast begin their season on the West Coast, or someplace warm, or in a dome? Of course it does. Does it make any sense that two dome teams — Tampa Bay and Toronto — are playing each other to open the season? Or that Milwaukee, which has a retractable roof at Miller Park, is hosting San Francisco?

It looks easy to correct, but coming up with a major league schedule is a lot harder than it looks.

The schedule has been put together by the Sports Scheduling Group, based in Butler, Pa., since 2005. It was done for years by a baseball man named Harry Simmons. In 1981, the job went to husband-and-wife duo Henry and Holly Stephenson, who did the schedule through 2004. Since then, the process has gotten more complex.

The Red Sox have a scheduling quirk in late July-early August, when they have three games in Anaheim against the Angels, then four in Seattle, then three in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Why not just spend the week in LA and then go to Seattle? The Red Sox will spend $87,000 to get from LA to Seattle and another $87,000 to return to LA on their charter flight.

But changing the schedule to accommodate the Red Sox would mean not accommodating another team. The schedule, according to those who know, has a trickle-down effect. One concession might affect three other teams' schedules.


Dombrowski also pointed out another downside to starting the season on a long road trip — what happens if a team returns home 1-8? How deflating is that for the fans who pay up for a home-opening series but find their team already buried in the standings?

Of course, there's all kinds of TV conflicts, too. ESPN, Fox, and networks paying huge dollars in rights fees and have some say on when a given event is scheduled.

And then there's the risk of injury.

Players leave the warm confines of Florida and Arizona in spring training and suddenly have to adjust to a cold environment in which they can't get loose as quickly.

"The wind was the big thing for me," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. "When I got here there's snow in the air, but that's not bad. The wind really goes through you and you have to make adjustments on the field because of it."

Ortiz agreed that wind is the worst part.

"I remember we were in Chicago one time and it was really cold, but the worst part was the wind. When you're a hitter, you can't blink or you're not going to see the pitch. That wind was so strong, you couldn't help but blink. That's the worst thing."

The wind was gusty at Progressive Field on Monday and would have been problematic had the game been played.


The Indians had control over deciding on a postponement. The Indians brass, Dombrowski, and the umpires were called in for a meeting, and it was stated the forecast had changed from earlier in the day and there was now a threat of precipitation throughout the day and night.

The Indians decided to take their chances on a 1 p.m. game Tuesday — a scheduled day off for the teams — when temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s, but with no precipitation. The forecasts for Wednesday and Thursday in Cleveland don't look great either. All of which is tough for the Red Sox. If any of the three scheduled games here gets called off, they would have to make a special trip back to Cleveland because this is their only series at Progressive Field.

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Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.