Mehno: MLB teams at mercy of nature

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — It’s a cruel April Fool joke that’s being played on the Pirates.

They get extra time in Detroit.

Two of their first three scheduled games had to be postponed because of weather, including the Thursday opener and Saturday’s matinee.

So at 6:10 p.m. this evening — about the time they should be boarding their flight to Pittsburgh — they’ll instead be taking the field for the back half of a day-night doubleheader against the Tigers.

That’s what happens when MLB opens its season in the last week of March in cities where winter is lingering beyond its official expiration date.

People start yelling that baseball has to do a better job of early-season scheduling, but there’s only so much that can be done.

There aren’t enough warm-weather places and domed stadiums to go around, so teams wind up making that jarring transition from six weeks of spring training in balmy Florida to a season that opens in frosty Michigan.

There’s more at work here than a shortage of Margaritaville-like climates and stadiums with lids, retractable and otherwise.

In 1984, MLB had the Pirates opening in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with a stop in St. Louis on the way home. It was a 10-game trip. Even though the Pirates swept the series from the Dodgers, they didn’t do much against the Padres, Giants and Cardinals.

They came home with a 3-7 record. Nothing takes some steam out of the home opener quite like a home team with a .300 winning percentage.

So they roll the dice and bundle up. It gives MLB a chance to show off the line of officially-licensed parkas and ski hats. Players from the Dominican Republic can send a snowball selfie to the folks back home.

With this series, MLB created a real jackpot by scheduling inter-league games for Detroit. The Pirates only make one trip there, so there’s no other alternative for rescheduling.

The day-night doubleheader is inconvenient for everyone. Does anyone think fans want to sit in a ballpark after sundown on Easter Sunday? It could be very lonely when the second game ends.

They’ll play the first one, clear the ballpark, then start the second game.

The Pirates will now have a quick turnaround from the second game of today’s doubleheader to the home opener against Minnesota, scheduled to start at 1:05 Monday.

That’s weather permitting, of course.

More confusion

Leave it to the NFL.

No sooner than the league gains clarity on the catch rule, it creates more confusion on helmet hits and the appropriate penalties.

Nobody wants to see gratuitous violence (except maybe Vontaze Burfict). Football is a mean and nasty game, played by people who have accepted the considerable risks, both short and long-term.

Now the NFL is trying to judge intent, and that’s a slippery slope. There are occasions when someone’s mean streak gets too wide and there is a deliberate attempt to injure. (Another parenthetical reference to the Bengals Burfict would seem to fit nicely here).

But most dangerous hits aren’t as clear. A player who is moving is trying to hit a moving target. The same thing happens in hockey. A player has no intention of making an illegal hit, but the movement of the recipient turns it into that.

Their best friend

You already know that the Penguins intermission interviews on AT&T SportsNet are a chance for Dan Potash to remind everyone that he’s the players’ buddy.

The post-game interviews, which are broadcast to the crowd at PPG Paints Arena, turned into rallies a long time ago. Potash in the past has led an “M-V-P” cheer while ostensibly interviewing Evgeni Malkin.

So it’s not exactly Mike Wallace-type stuff, and that’s probably OK. It’s only sports.

But it gets just a little too syrupy when an exchange with Brian Rust ends with Potash’s exhortation, “Go get ’em, Rusty.”

Mehno can be reached at: johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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