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April 18, 2007 at 7:36 PM

Editorial: Send the Dogs on the road next April

Forgive me if you already read my rant on the message board. But I'm a little upset that the Sea Dogs have already been rained out nine times during the first two weeks of the season and have only managed to fit in six games. Clay Buchholz's first start was delayed by six days, and now his second start has been slid back for five straight days. Many of the top prospects in Portland have been forced to twiddle their thumbs while several of the other minor league teams have already gotten in 12 or 13 games. The Dogs are already going to have to play at least six doubleheaders this season. Indeed, 2007 marks five years in a row in which there have been an absurd number of April rainouts in Portland. There can be no doubt that this many rainouts is detrimental to the players.

No, I'm not upset with the weather gods or global warming. Those are fights for another day and another place. I'm upset because there's a fairly simple solution - start the Sea Dogs on the road next season. In fact, start the Sea Dogs on the road every season. Start them on a 10-game road trip every year, give them a 3-game home stand in mid-to-late April, then send them on another 6-game road trip.

There's a multitude of reasons to start the Dogs on the road every year. First, the team has a 10-game road trip every year, might as well make it in April. Second, I understand that the entire East Coast has experienced bad weather the past couple days, but that hasn't been the case all season. The Eastern League has plenty of affiliates that see significantly better average April weather than Portland, including the whole Southern Division and Trenton. In fact, pretty much every team in the Eastern League has better average April weather than Portland. We're not talking about summer weather in April, but we're also not talking about a field buried under 10 inches of snow for the first week of the season every year.

I'm sure the Portland fans wouldn't complain about getting less April games, as even when they manage to get in a game its still pretty cold up there in April. In the end, they'd probably end up actually playing the same amount of April games anyway. Scheduling less April games in Portland also means that the Maine fans get more warm-weather games to enjoy later in the season.

I'd imagine the players won't complain either. If you were up-and-coming and hot-out-of-the-gates Jacoby Ellsbury, would you rather play a few road games to start the season, or sit around and play no games at all and then have to play six doubleheaders later in the season? The answer's a no-brainer if you ask me. Same goes for the opposing players.

What about the opposing teams, you ask? Maybe they don't want to host games in April, either. Maybe they'd rather have as many games in June through August when the weather is great and school's out. Maybe they'd feel like they were getting the short end of the stick if they were forced to host games the first week of the season. Sensible arguments. But guess what - some team has to host games in April. If one team is going to have to get the short end of the stick, why must it be Portland rather than Trenton? This question lloms large, particularly when the ill-effects of the likely Portland rainouts in April will be detrimental to the players on both teams. If its the summer games that the teams value, schedule a significant portion of the April games at the homes of the Southern Division teams, and even that out by scheduling a lot of the May games in Portland and the Northern Division. While there's still a chance of some May rainouts in Maine, its significantly less of a risk than the first three weeks of April. After May, the teams can share equally in the valuable summer home games.

Seems like a simple solution to me.
But I imagine there’s a whole lot of politics that goes into the scheduling than meets the eye. I just hope those asserting their politics keep in mind what’s best for the players.