CLEVELAND — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been getting buried by pretty much every purist — every baseball fan, really — for the measures he’s taken to shorten the length of games.
Even Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer took a shot at him recently.
I’m not on board with everything the commish has proposed — and instituted — especially the starting a runner on second base in extra innings nonsense. That’s a Sunday softball league thing, not a big league one.
But here’s a take that’s probably even more unpopular with the old-schoolers: I’d like to take Manfred’s pace-of-play thing a step further and just go ahead and shorten the whole darn season.
It starts too early and ends too late, which means there will undoubtedly be games played in the cold.
Indians fans can relate. They dutifully, impressively, respectfully and insanely showed up to pack Progressive Field for the home opener dressed in winter coats, hats and gloves normally reserved for Browns games.
Then those that showed up for the rest of the first homestand got to experience temperatures in the 30s, including the coldest game on record at Jacobs/Progressive Field — 32 freaking degrees at first pitch.
Baseball is not meant to be played in the cold. It’s why spring training is held in Arizona and Florida. Major league players are called the boys of summer — a season of sun and warmth.
That’s when baseball should be played, in the most ideal settings as possible. No athlete should be subjected to competing in the cold unless it’s the Winter Olympics.
I know it may sound like it, but I don’t hate baseball. I’ve covered the game since 1994, and though I will admit — give me some credit for honesty here — it’s not my favorite sport, not even close, it’s still a sport, I’m a sportswriter, and that’s what I love: sports.
There’s not much better than postseason baseball. Unless it’s played in the cold.
And that brings me to my real beef on the length of the MLB season.
Each year there is the potential for the most important games of the season — the playoffs and World Series — to be played under less-than-ideal conditions. Make that, ridiculous conditions.
If a Midwest or East Coast team qualifies for the postseason in October, it’s going to host games in the cold, maybe even a World Series one when it snows.
Remember that, Indians fans? In 1997 the Tribe and Marlins played in a winter wonderland that was Jacobs Field. I can still remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe they are going to play a pivotal World Series game in the snow!!!!!’
Those same fans can also remember when all three road games of the 2016 World Series were played in the freezing cold at Wrigley Field — though they probably look back fondly since the Indians won two of them.
Still, you get the idea.
I sure did when I sat in the auxiliary press box (the stands) in Wrigley, not the heated one that some of my colleagues called their office — I tell ya, I get no respect.
I had issues just sitting there in my winter coat, hat and no gloves — since I had to type (not very well with frozen fingers). I can’t imagine trying to play baseball at any type of level.
I can handle cold weather to start the year — though I’d rather not — but not in critical postseason games. I don’t care if both teams have to deal with it. They shouldn’t have to.
They shouldn’t have to work all season long to get to the promised land, only to have it covered in snow.
Whenever possible, why wouldn’t you want to play under ideal conditions to decide the world championship? You certainly aren’t getting the best from your players if they have to bundle up to play in those conditions. None of them is loose and the ball doesn’t travel anywhere.
It’s a weathered-down version of a baseball game at the most important time of the season.
I mean, let’s be real, folks, no one likes to do much of anything in the cold. If you polled 100 major league players and asked them whether they would prefer to take the field with the sun shining and the temperatures in the 70s or 80s or in the 30s and 40s, who’s gonna take the latter?
The only sport that is actually somewhat conditioned for the cold is football, and its college and professional levels almost always hold their most important game of the season on a neutral field — in a dome or warm-weather venue.
I’m proposing to shorten the season from 162 games to somewhere around 122.
You want to keep the length of the season? I guess I’d be fine with that as long as the World Series is held at a neutral site.
I’m sure that will sit well with traditional baseball fans, as well.
I don’t care what anybody thinks.
Baseball’s most important games should not be left out in the cold.
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