As you may have already heard, there have been a large number of rainouts in major league baseball this season. As USA Today reported:
There were four rainouts across the major leagues on Tuesday, bringing the season’s postponement total to 30 (there were 21 all of last year) and only increasing what was already a dizzying pace for the season.
With the cold and wet weather all over the country this spring, we’re on pace for a lot of makeup games this summer. Besides wrecking havoc on the schedule, the rain brings up other issues — namely, that there are a handful of motivations for teams to use potential or actual rainfall to their advantage, often at the expense of the fans and the opposing team.
First: Home teams are incentivized to let fans into the stadium, get them to buy food and purchase parking, and then reschedule the game — because by doing so, they can take in money without having to compensate their most expensive employees (i.e., the players). It’s like having the benefits of an extra home game at the expense of their most dedicated fans, the people who show up on rainy days. I’m not claiming any teams are purposefully doing this, because I don’t know. But the temptation is certainly there. If you like conspiracy theories (like I do) you probably grumble about this one when you show up and it happens (like I do). It’s not a stretch to see how this could play a part.
There’s also the issue of the home team taking advantage of rain for competitive reasons, as the Mets may or may not have done this week with the Marlins in order to avoid Ricky Nolasco. Again, in the interest of fairness, this might not be something MLB wants happening all that often.
So, if I can just throw something out there: Why not give the decision to play on rainy days to the visiting team? As said above, the home team has all kinds of incentives to cancel the game, and it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t play a part sometimes. On the other hand, while the visiting team still has some incentive to reschedule if they’re not healthy or going up against Roy Halladay, I can’t imagine teams like flying across the country on what should have been an off day to make up a single game in August, for reasons both competitive and economic. And the visiting team has no reason to sell hot dogs for the home team. The visitors have more incentive to try to play through the weather, or just cancel immediately, which would (ideally) lead to fewer rainouts and fewer instances of fans making trips to the park and then having the game cancelled.
(And once the game starts, the decision is up to the umpires anyway, who probably don’t care either way.)
So that’s my rainout suggestion: Give more input to the visiting team. Not sure if it makes total sense — maybe this leads to more games being played through downpours — but I think it’d be a step in the right direction. At the very least, it’s got to be much better than domes.