Most of the early talk about the baseball schedule concerns the unfortunate April weather — snow in Colorado and Minnesota, and cold in the Northeast and Midwest.
Two Diamondbacks veterans, outfielder Cody Ross and third baseman Eric Chavez, pointed out another issue last week in comments to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:
Night games on getaway days.
Look no further if you’re wondering why your favorite team often appears flat after late-night travel. It’s a problem, and one that has become more apparent since baseball banned amphetamines in 2006.
No one is advocating that the sport make such drugs legal again. The solution — if there is one — would be to reduce the number of night games on getaway days, enabling players to get their proper rest.
Consider the Diamondbacks’ schedule last week.
First, they played a 12-inning night game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday that lasted four hours, 11 minutes. They then flew to Denver, arrived early in the morning and had to play Friday night.
The D-backs lost the first two same games of the series 3-1 and 4-3, before rallying to win the finale 5-4.
“We got in really late,” Chavez said. “I kind of wish Major League Baseball would do something about that because getting in at 5:30 (a.m.) is just not fair. I sound like a whiny baby, but it’s the truth. We’ve been flat and I think that’s why.”
Ross told Piecoro that such schedule issues are “definitely something that we’ll talk about in the next (collective-bargaining) agreement.” Actually, the players and owners discussed the matter while negotiating the current CBA, which expires in 2016.
The two sides made one adjustment, according to a major league source — teams must play in the afternoons on getaway days if the visiting club is required to fly two or more hours prior to a day off at home.
But for business reasons, baseball otherwise is stuck.
Midweek day games generally do not draw as well as night games, particularly while school is in session. The Yankees, for example, play night games on getaway days in April and May, knowing children cannot attend games in the afternoon.
In addition, two teams each week are contractually obligated to play the national televised “Sunday Night Baseball” game, which almost always takes place on a getaway day.
Additional revenue translates to higher salaries, so it’s in the players’ interests to make sacrifices. But is there a happy medium? One player suggests that teams opposed to afternoon games on travel days could meet the players halfway, starting at 5 p.m. instead of 7.
Such a shift also might compromise attendance. But the bottom line is that the sport compromises its product when a team plays at night on a getaway day and then is back at it the next night.
“It’s not fun getting into a city at four or five in the morning and having to wake up and try to play a game at a high level,” Ross said.
Yet too often, that is what baseball requires players to do.
— Ken Rosenthal