In the bottom of the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Opening Day in 2021, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate and lined a 93 MPH fastball from reigning American League Cy Young winner Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Indians into the seats in right for an opposite-field home run, the first tater of the 2021 Major League Baseball season.
But instead of trotting around the bases to celebrate his 350th homer as a Tiger at home plate with the next man up, Cabrera slid into second base. Why? Because he couldn’t see that his homer had landed inches over the yellow line in right field due to all the SNOW FLURRIES.
For some completely inscrutable reason, MLB’s schedule-makers, as they often have, elected to hold Opening Day in Detroit, leading to the Tigers hosting the Indians in a game featuring a first-pitch temperature of 32 degrees. And as today’s release of the 2022 schedule reveals, no one at MLB has learned anything from the mistakes of last year.
MLB is planning to open the 2022 season on March 31, the fourth time baseball will attempt to have every team play its first game on the same day for the first time since 1968. It will be the third time in the past four seasons MLB has tried to have all 30 clubs play on the same Opening Day, and considering they are trying to start in March, it will be the third time that attempt will fail.
Poor playing conditions to start the 2021 season were not unique to Detroit: cold-weather cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cincinnati all hosted Opening Day games. (The Red Sox were rained out in Boston.) Meanwhile, ballparks in places like Texas, Arizona, California, Florida and Georgia that could have played host to games sat vacant.
Outside of what happened with Cabrera, there is plenty of historical evidence that using some common sense and accounting for Mother Nature by opening the season later in the year in warm-weather cities or domes would make sense. In 2018, an April 1 game between the White Sox and Royals in Kansas City was postponed due to bitter cold and snow in the Midwest. The next day, the same weather pattern impacted the Northeast as the Rays and Yankees and Phillies and Mets also had snow days.
Would altering the schedule so that only the Rangers, Astros, Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Rays, Padres, Dodgers, Giants, Twins, Brewers (dome), A’s, Mariners, Braves and Blue Jays (dome) host Opening Day reduce the number of interdivisional matchups — like the three listed above and Cabrera’s Tigers hosting the Indians — that typically start the season? For sure. Would that be worth it to nearly guarantee (outside of rain) that MLB would be able to hold all 15 scheduled games to start its season in relative comfort for players as well as fans? Probably. Will that happen this year with the season starting on March 31? Probably not.
As OutKast let us know in “Ms. Jackson” back in 2000, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” To some extent, that’s true. But you can mitigate the risk of rain, snow and freezing temperatures by planning the picnic in a place that typically has good weather by the start of April, or just eat indoors at one of the six domed stadiums at your disposal. It almost makes too much sense. As would starting the season later in the year than March 31.