David Haugh: Mother Nature must really hate baseball, America's national frost timeChicago Tribune — By David Haugh Chicago Tribune
April 16-- CHICAGO-April baseball constantly reinforces the risks involved in drawing conclusions based on small sample sizes, but we have seen enough snow and cold this month to know one thing for sure.
Chicago's springtime weather stinks.
That goes for the rest of the Midwest, too, as the White Sox can attest after having three weekend games in Minneapolis snowed out, and, while we're clicking on Google Maps, the Northeast as well. Monday's postponements of Red Sox-Orioles in Boston, Blue Jays-Royals in Toronto and Cubs-Cardinals at Wrigley Field increased the total around the majors to 24, the most before May 1 in the last 15 seasons-with two weeks remaining in this miserable month.
Usually, you need a passport to experience the winter league. Of all the years to move the calendar back to March for Opening Day, this turned out to be the most illogical. Did the Farmers' Almanac fail Commissioner Rob Manfred? Is it time to have a serious discussion about starting every MLB season May 1?
Mother Nature must really hate baseball, America's national frost time. The mind of a sabermetrician is cluttered enough without factoring in wind-chill temperatures.
When the Padres tweeted a picture of sunny blue skies over Petco Park on Sunday under the words, "Attention: Due to weather, today's game will be ... played as scheduled," all anyone this side of the Rockies could do was laugh as they shivered.
It was less humorous to see the Blue Jays postpone Monday's game against the Royals because of falling ice from the nearby CN Tower and a hole in the Rogers Centre's retractable roof that allowed snow onto the playing field, the Toronto Star reported. Maybe that will teach the smart aleck who runs the Blue Jays' social-media account; earlier Monday, the team's Twitter account trolled every other team canceling a game by saying: "Weather update: Due to our stadium having a roof, today's game will be ...played as expected."
Oops. They won't have to go the league office to review that call.
By the way, why would any major-league team north of Atlanta build a new stadium without a retractable roof, something more than a few Twins fans surely have pondered about Target Field. In a state where all 10,000 lakes likely froze in mid-April, it's a question worth asking.
Here in Chicago, where many wonder the same thing about roofless Soldier Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon really was the smartest guy in the room Saturday after his team's 14-10 victory over the Braves. Despite an epic comeback that included a nine-run eighth inning, Maddon maintained the game never should have been played in conditions more conducive to skiing and sledding than pitching and hitting. And Maddon was right, an opinion that surely weighed heavily when considering whether to play Sunday and Monday in the midst of weather ideal for the Iditarod.
That means the Cubs had to wait until Tuesday to give a wintry welcome to the Cardinals, rivals in name only lately. The Cubs beat the Cardinals eight out of nine times last year at Wrigley and 14 out of 19 overall. It was lopsided enough to wonder if Dexter Fowler ever second-guessed his decision to leave the Cubs for all the Cardinals' money. Something tells me Fowler found 82 million reasons to laugh at such a suggestion.
Does having a Cardinals outfielder who always will be a Cubs legend by virtue of his role on the 2016 World Series champions soften the rivalry? That remains to be seen, but the Cardinals have a ways to go, in terms of controversy, to catch up with the kerfuffle their fellow National League Central foes created.
The Brewers, perpetually bothered by Miller Park becoming Wrigley Field North, apparently angered Cubs catcher Willson Contreras enough for the fiery Venezuelan to utter a four-letter word toward the opposing dugout after a triple. Internet detectives traced the rift several years back to a possible winter-league altercation with Brewers first baseman Eric Thames. Beating the Brewers three out of four at home made it easier for the Cubs to back up the big talk.
Then came the Pirates and grumpy manger Clint Hurdle. Hurdle's rebuke of Javy Baez for flipping his bat in frustration, something one of Baez's teammates addressed with the infielder, touched a nerve with Cubs fans. That Hurdle had a valid point quickly became irrelevant; he erred in expressing a public opinion about another manager's player. It's OK for a family to criticize one of its own, but when a neighbor does it, a fierce defense begins. That's not in baseball's unwritten rulebook as much as society's code.
So here we are as the Cardinals arrive, waiting for the temperatures to rise and tempers too, if the spirit moves. For starters, what is going through Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's mind before his first matchup against Contreras since the Cubs catcher told the Sun-Times at the Cubs Convention he was "going to be better" than Molina and Buster Posey? Is anybody bleeding red foolish enough to count out the .500 Cubs-with 91 percent of the 162-game schedule left-because of the bloated ERA of a rotation bound to get better?
Hopefully, Chicago's unkind weather cooperates for what promises to be a cold but compelling two-game series, the Cardinals' last visit until they return July 19 for five games in four days.
The forecast that weekend already calls for plenty of sun, that giant orange thing in the sky stuck in one of the worst April slumps of its career.
ABOUT THE WRITER
David Haugh is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
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