Monday, March 31, 2008


THE SUN was shining, the birds were singing, there was hardly a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather, in fact, for the start of the new baseball season.

Sadly for fans of the New York Yankees, this was Sunday rather than Monday, official “Opening Day” of the final season at Yankee Stadium.

To the major disappointment of those lucky enough to get their hands on tickets, come Monday morning sunshine had given way to gray skies and persistent drizzle.

Even the optimists among the crowd knew the outcome was inevitable. The game against the Toronto Blue Jays, due to start at 1.05pm, was called at around 2.30pm and rearranged for Tuesday, which just happens to be April Fools’ Day.

How appropriate that is … as the idea of playing baseball in March, or even on April 1, is foolhardy to say the least.

One day sun, next day rain. That’s what you get at this time of year if you live in the north east. Which leads me to two questions. Why start the season this early and why start it in New York?

154 Games A Season Were Not Enough

The answer to the first question is simple: money. You have 162 games to squeeze into the regular season. It’s been that way in the American League since 1961, when the schedule was increased from 154. 

Now, of course, you don’t need 162 games to determine whether the Yankees are better than the Red Sox. But you do need 162 games to pay Alex Rodriguez $275 million over the next ten years.

Commercialism has changed virtually every sport and sporting schedule throughout the world.

The English soccer season starts in the heat of mid-August and runs until late May. With international tournaments taking place in the summer, the players usually have only a few weeks off to rest aching limbs before jumping on the merry-go-round again.

Such are the demands of modern-day sports – and it ain’t going to change. The owners would never agree to a reduction in the number of games. Just think of the revenue they would lose from the TV companies and spectators.

Just as soccer is England’s national pursuit, so baseball is America’s favorite pastime. From March right through to October and the World Series, which is often played in freezing cold weather and light rain.

Which brings us to the second question. Why start in New York? Surely, it would be logical for the Yankees to begin on the road, in Tampa, Los Angeles, or anywhere warm for that matter. I notice the Red Sox are playing in Oakland, completing the four-game series they began in Japan. Strangely, though, their next stop is Toronto.

It’s impossible to come up with a schedule to suit everyone but there seems to be little rhyme and reason to some of the early match-ups.

You may argue that a few days won’t make much difference, but it’s amazing how all of a sudden, spring and the daffodils arrive.

In the early days of baseball, the regular season began in late April and ran through to late October. Things constantly change in life … not all of them for the better.

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