Baseball hit by increasingly wild weather
A blanket of snow, and then another. Bitter cold. Rain, and plenty of it. Fog straight out of a horror movie. A tornado warning, for crying out loud.
What's next, locusts?
For a sport that has experienced delays and postponements ranging from bees and midges to hurricanes and earthquakes, this baseball season has been subjected to an impressive run of interruptions from Mother Nature: A total of 30 weather-related postponements so far, or nine more than all of last year.
And while the calendar's ticking past the time of year when weather traditionally intervenes most frequently, the postponements are an impressive pace. Since 2002, the most weather-related postponements in a full season came in '11, when 53 games were pushed back because of weather, according to MLB.com Stats figures. That year came in like a lion as well, with 32 PPDs by June 12.
So far in 2013, there have been three dates with three postponements apiece -- April 17, April 23 and this past Friday -- and many games, like all three on Friday, were called well before the game would have started because the weather situation was so obviously unplayable.
Earlier in the season, the Royals were on a roll, watching three of their games postponed by harsh Midwestern weather in one homestand. It had the Royals' grounds crew working overtime, and chuckling at how Mother Nature had been, as she has been known to do in those parts, giving them plenty of work.
"Usually when the Royals are in town, the rain chances go up," Royals director of groundskeeping Trevor Vance said during that May homestand. "You don't need the Farmers' Almanac. You can pretty much follow the Royals' schedule, and the rain chances increase when they come into town."
Ah, but Mother Nature has spread it around this year. Fourteen clubs have hosted games that wound up being rescheduled because of the weather -- all kinds of it, from a pair of Colorado snowstorms to torrential rains to just plain cold in Minnesota.
At least the fog in Chicago on Monday night didn't wipe out either of the city's two Major League games, one of those rare occasions when the Cubs and Sox are both playing at home. But it sure cast another shroud of weather-related angst over what has been a meteorological maelstrom of a season so far.
Fog? Wait, this is the Windy City, right?
"You used to see it at Candlestick Park and Oakland," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who grew up in those foggy environs. "Obviously, it couldn't get any worse, otherwise you would have had to stop. It was borderline as it was."
And on Wednesday, the weather very well may intervene in Chicagoland again, with strong storms forecast that could affect both the afternoon game at Wrigley Field and the night game at U.S. Cellular Field.
In many cases this season, as has been a trend in recent years, games have been postponed hours before they began with a threat of severe weather in the area. That brought about a trio of postponements last week, when it was clear Washington, New York and Boston would be deluged by the first tropical storm of the season, Andrea, coming up the Eastern Seaboard. All three cities were hit hard with rain, so it was just as well the Nationals, Mets and Red Sox postponed their games before fans, players and others ventured to the ballpark.
Another such preemptive case was in St. Louis last month, when the Giants and Cardinals were to meet at Busch Stadium for the first time since last year's National League Championship Series. As game time approached, so did storms that had potential for tornadoes, so it was not just postpone the game, but take cover. Eventually, the "all clear" sounded, and the two teams played a doubleheader the next day.
Just the night before, an even more complicated weather issue arose when the Cardinals were hosting the Royals in their last scheduled meeting of the season. With rain coming down in the ninth inning, a delay of four hours and 32 minutes ensued, thanks in large part to a new rule that would have reverted the score to the previous inning, when the Cards held a 2-1 lead, if the game had been called. The Royals, who had rallied in the top of the ninth to take a 4-2 lead before the lengthy delay, wound up getting the last three outs in the wee hours of the morning.
Prior to that, the Rockies hosted two trips to winter wonderland in April, the latter on April 22 becoming the 16th occasion a game in Denver has been postponed by snow in Colorado's 21 seasons. When the Rockies and Braves returned to the field the next day, the game-time temperature of 23 degrees was the lowest since STATS Inc. began tracking it in 1991.
"It's miserable, to be honest with you," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said before that one began.
All in all, weather is having its way with baseball in the early part of the season -- much more so than a year ago -- but then again very much like the year before that. So who knows what meteorological detours await as we head into the summer? It could be smooth sailing like 2012, or it could be like '11, when there were a dozen postponements in August.
Ah, Mother Nature. She always gives the Boys of Summer so much warmth. Yet she sure can pack a wallop at times, too.