News Columns & Blogs

Don’t blame the league for Rays’ road start

By ROGER MOONEY

rmooney@bradenton.com

The forecast says it’s cold and rainy, or cold and snowy or just plain cold. Nothing says Opening Day like players wearing hoods and fans dressed like they’re going to cut down a Christmas tree.

Play ball? How about brrrr?

The Rays were rained out in Boston on Monday. You might have heard.

Wouldn’t have happened had they opened at Tropicana Field. Rain or shine, the Rays play. It’s the roof, I think.

And why didn’t they open at home?

Good question.

Here’s why: The schedule was set last summer, long before the Rays won the division and the American League championship.

It would have been nice to see the Rays raise the AL pennant on Opening Day. But that would have meant reworking the schedule.

You couldn’t switch the first three games of the season in Boston for the three games against the Red Sox at the Trop from May 30 to April 3 because that’s a four-game series and it would extend a Rays road trip from three cities and nine games to four cities and 13 games. And with the Rays scheduled to be in Boston the following weekend, well, you see the problems.

There’s a three-game series at the Trop in September, but a switch would mean a stretch of 20 out of 23 games on the road. Never going to happen.

It might make more sense to set the schedule after the season ends, but if you wait until after the World Series then you’re waiting until November. Teams have to book hotel rooms and charter flights. Hotels have to know when the teams are coming so they can book other events.

To have all the northern teams open the season in warm weather cities or under domes would eliminate the rainouts and snow-outs, but that prevents northern teams from opening at home, and that’s not really fair.

Also, it doesn’t rain every day in April. Just two openers were postponed this week.

The real issue with the Rays’ schedule isn’t that they play the first six games on the road, it’s that they only play eight games at home this month. It gets worse. Of their first 35 games, only 13 are at home.

This isn’t good news for a team that played .704 ball at home last season and .494 ball on the road.

Andy Sonnanstine is the only member of the rotation who had a winning record on the road in 2008. James Shields, now 12-17 during his career away from the Trop, has three more starts on the road this month.

The Rays played their first six games on the road last season. One was rained out. What followed was a stretch where 17 of their next 19 games were at home, including three games at Disney.

They won 10 of those 17 home games and split the two road games at Minnesota. That run took them from last place to a tie for first, included the sweep against the Red Sox and launched the Rays on their way to the World Series.

I don’t remember anyone thanking the schedule-makers last April.

  Comments