MLB's Weather Choices Could Affect Game Outcomes

A general view of the players from the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals lined up on the foul lines during the performance of the National Anthem during Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 9, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Given all the rain that's affected the playoffs, I'm thinking MLB needs someone who really knows something about weather.

Not a meteorologist, either. Instead, it should be someone like me, who sits outside at dozens of baseball games every year and lives in a city where one of the unofficial slogans is, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. It'll change." Someone who freely admits to watching the Weather Channel. For fun.

Here's what I think: the folks sitting in the executive offices in New York probably haven't been at a baseball game in months, if not years, and their knowledge of weather forecasts appears to come from some guy on the subway who they overheard saying, "Yeah, I think I heard it's gonna rain today."

This postseason has been a ridiculous mess of wrongheaded weather decisions. I attended the first ALDS game in New York on Sept. 30; the forecast that day was for rain to stay away from the New York area until after midnight. But anyone -- and I mean just about any informed consumer, not just a meteorologist -- looking at a radar loop when it was getting close to game time might have tapped Bud on the shoulder and said, "Um, it's going to be pouring about 30 minutes after game time and it's not going to stop. Maybe you shouldn't start this game."

Instead, Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia were wiped out of making more than one full start in a series in which they were expected to be available for both Game 1 and Game 5. Could that have changed the outcome of the series? Maybe. We'll never know, thanks to a wrong decision about weather.

Then, there was the soggy mess in Texas on Saturday night, forcing two rain delays (you'd have to forgive Verlander if he thought the rain was following him around) and a game that ended around midnight local time. Could that have affected the outcome of the game? Maybe, and that's why MLB looked at the forecast for Sunday and called off the game four hours before its scheduled time.

Again, any outside observer could have looked at radar images and tapped Bud on the shoulder that's now getting tired of taps and said, "Hey, Bud! I think we can get this one in!" Which, in fact, they could have.

A separate, but related issue, is whether they should open the roof at Miller Park in Milwaukee. It's been unusually warm in Milwaukee this month; the 76-degree high temperature on Sunday was almost 15 degrees above average. So MLB ordered it open for Game 1, and it'll be open again Monday night with a forecast of clear skies and temperatures mostly in the 60s.

Should it be that way? Ryan Braun says there is a difference, but not just because it's open or closed:

"When it's warm, I think the ball carries similar whether the roof's open or closed," said outfielder Ryan Braun, who helped carry the Brewers to Sunday's 9-6 win with a two-run double and two-run homer. "I think, when it's cold, it definitely carries better when the roof is closed."

That's all well and good -- and the article also says that before Sunday, the Brewers had identical 30-12 records at home with the roof open and closed -- but beyond that, whose decision should it be? The first link above says:

Home teams make the decision on retractable roofs during the regular season. During the postseason, Major League Baseball makes the decision, but does consult both teams.

That wasn't the case in 2005, when the Astros were forced to play with Minute Maid Park's roof open; the Astros wanted the roof closed because they thought the noise level in a closed ballpark would help them, but:

By keeping the roof open, baseball officials said they were simply following the Astros' roof policy throughout the rest of the year. If the temperature is below 80 degrees, the roof remains open. At game time, the temperature was 61.

The Astros' counterpoint was:

If the commissioner's office felt a closed roof would give the Astros an unfair advantage, keeping the roof open, by logical extension, gave the White Sox an advantage. They were freed from having to deal with the noise of Texas fans witnessing the first World Series game ever played in that state.

And further:

Fox wants to be able to take shots from the blimp, and with the weather expected to be clear and warm, MLB will order the Astros to keep the roof open.

Ah, now we see some of the real reasons coming out -- the outfit that provides all the money helped make that call. (I've never quite figured out the point of aerial shots of a domed stadium at night, anyway.)

The bottom line is that they're probably making the right call in Milwaukee; the Brewers do generally open the roof during the season when the weather is as nice as it is now. There won't be issues with shadows, either, with the game beginning long after sundown. But MLB has to be more consistent with its weather choices, because those choices could wind up affecting who wins or loses.

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