Anatomy of a Farce

Just a quick overview as to why the Indians are now in Milwaukee, set to play a three-game home series:

Step #1. Last winter, MLB made up the 2007 schedule, and consulted with the Indians about their Opening Day. All indications were that the Indians could have opened the season at home, but the club declined, citing the Women's Final Four going on at the same time. So the schedulers adjusted their framework so that the Indians would open at home the first weekend of the season. So far, so good, even though early April weather in Northeast Ohio is often iffy, with rain and coldish temperatures prevalent through the first half of the month.

The big problem is that the schedulers had the home opener opponent be a team that made just one visit that season. Thanks to the unbalanced schedule and Interleague play, most AL West and AL East teams visit Cleveland but once a year. And given the distance between Seattle and Cleveland,  making a return trip would be tricky to pull off.

The schedulers compounded the potential disaster by having the LA Angels follow the Mariners into Cleveland - another AL West club that only was scheduled to visit Northeast Ohio once this season.

Step #2. Even with the shoddy scheduling, the chances were good that a logistical nightmare would be avoided, because April weather in Cleveland isn't that bad. Sure, it rains often, but temperatures are normally in the 50s by this time. At worst, one or two games in the 10-game homestand would get postponed. But just a couple days into the season, the temperatures over the entire region dropped to unseasonable levels. And the kicker was that the winds were just right to cause a massive lake effect snow storm over Cleveland, dumping over a foot of snow over downtown. This caused Friday's home opener to be cut short, and the constant snowfall postponed the remaining three games of the series. As of this morning there was still quite a bit of snow in Jacobs Field, and the temperatures weren't warm enough to melt it quickly.

So right away, the Indians were put into the unenviable position of making up four games with a West Coast team who doesn't come back the rest of the season. This means doubleheaders on off-days, and possibly even making up some of the games in Seattle.

Step #3. The weather is improving, but not fast enough to get the field in playing shape for Tuesday. And any postponed games would fall into the same circumstances as the four with the Mariners. So the Indians and Major-League Baseball explored options to play the series elsewhere.

The correct solution would have been to switch home series with the Angels, as the Indians are scheduled to travel to Los Angeles in May for a three-game series. The Indians would not lose any additional home dates, and they would get the upcoming series in without dealing with the weather in Cleveland. But because most of the games in Los Angeles had big pre-sales, MLB didn't want to upset another franchise, so they deigned to screw just one team and be done with it, shifting three Indians home games elsewhere. Also working against this possible solution was a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement stating that any trip from the West Coast to the East Coast had to include an off-day; the schedule is such that a proposed swap could not happen unless the Player's Association agreed to it.

Indians owner Paul Dolan's suggestion of Miller Park in Milwaukee was agreed upon as a neutral site, and the Brewers agreed to it. To attract attendance, ticket prices were lowered to just $10 a seat. And judging by accounts from Brewers fans, tickets are going quickly. Who knows - perhaps the attendance in Milwaukee will surpass the crowds who would have showed up in chilly Cleveland.

Conclusion: Hopefully no other team will ever have to go through this again. The Indians are already at a severe competitive disadvantage, forfeiting at least three home games, not to mention the strain that making up four additional games will place on the team later in the season. The schedulers should bear the ultimate brunt of blame here, and there should a set in stone rule from this day forward that any series played before April 15th in a northern, open-air facility would be a division matchup. If the past four-game series would have been against Chicago or Detroit, it would have been difficult to make up the games, but you at least knew that they were going to be made up. And the geographic proximity of the teams is such that it would be relatively easy to get the teams back together on an off-day if necessary.  

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