As Major League Baseball endures one of its worst runs of weather in more than three decades, the historically early start to the 2018 season might turn out to be a blessing.
Scheduled matchups between the Red Sox and Orioles in Boston and the Cubs and Cardinals in Chicago on Monday became the 22nd and 23rd games to be postponed because of inclement weather this season. Monday night's game between the Blue Jays and Royals in Toronto also was postponed because falling ice from the CN Tower damaged the retractable roof at Rogers Centre, bringing the total of postponements to 24.
Since MLB began keeping continuous track in 1986, the only season to endure more weather-related postponements in March and April was 2007, when 25 games were lost to inclement weather. With two weeks left in the month, MLB is on the verge of an ignominious meteorological standard.
The lone saving grace for baseball: The 2016 collective bargaining agreement increased the length of the season from 183 to 187 days to ease the physical burden on players. That extra wiggle room has allowed MLB's schedule-makers to plug in postponed games later in the season with a minimum of havoc and stress.
"The fact that we started the year earlier gives us more off-days throughout the year, so there are a lot more options for us to make days up this year," said Chris Marinak, MLB's executive vice president of strategy, technology and innovation. "Four days may seem small, but it's actually pretty significant. We're having many more options in terms of finding agreeable dates that work.
"As bad as it's been to have the number of games we've lost so far, I can't think of a game we've lost where I'm really concerned about the makeup date burdening a club or causing an issue. That's sort of the silver lining in what we've had so far."
Along with rain, sleet and snow, teams have had to play their way through a brutal stretch of cold weather. According to ESPN Stats & Information, a total of 22 games in the first three weeks have begun with a temperature below 40 degrees. That's already the most for an entire season since 2001.
The most controversial weather-related start came Saturday in Chicago, when the Braves and Chicago Cubs began their game at Wrigley Field with a temperature of 38 degrees and a wind chill of 28. The teams combined for 18 walks, four wild pitches, two hit batters and four errors before the Cubs prevailed, 14-10.
"I give both teams a lot of credit under the circumstances," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters, "because that game should not have been played."
Marinak said future scheduling concerns were at the heart of the decision to play the game. The Cubs and Braves will make up Sunday's postponed game on May 14, and they would have been forced to play a makeup doubleheader that day if they hadn't finished Saturday's game.
The postponed Orioles-Red Sox Patriot's Day game on Monday was an easier call. The teams have a mutually open date on May 17 before a three-game series at Fenway Park, so they can play the game then and avoid a doubleheader.
Although the March 29 Opening Day this season was the earliest in baseball history, MLB didn't experience many weather-related disruptions the first weekend. Only four of the 23 postponements thus far occurred between March 29 and April 1. There were two in Detroit and one each in Cincinnati and Kansas City.
Marinak said the cooperation among MLB, individual teams and the Players Association has made the early schedule disruptions easier to navigate.
"Getting 162 games in over 180-something days requires a team effort," he said. "Everybody is working together to try and find the best way to get these things in. There hasn't been a lot of conflict so far.
"In some respects, it's almost easier to reschedule because these are no-brainers. It's snow, sleet, hail, significant rain, flooding. There's not a lot of debate like, 'We should be out there.' Nobody is saying we should be out there for these games. So you just find the best option to move on, and you work with everybody to get a good answer."