April 26 thru 29
- Timber Rattlers 2 games, Lugnuts 1 (1 rainout)
- Lugnuts are 12-11 (.522)
- Third place, 1.5 games behind the Whitecaps. The division’s spread has reached 3.5 games.
My imaginary audience lives in Lansing and knows something about baseball, but less about the Midwest League. My mail tells me that some of my readers fit that profile. I also get lots (yes: lots) of mail from friends and acquaintances of the players. I ask the friends to indulge me, this episode, while I talk about the League’s scheduling practices; there’s nothing about the players here. (Next time. I promise.)
These four-game sets are pretty much the league norm. Each league team plays eight games against each of the teams in the “other” divisions, which essentially dictates that games be scheduled in parcels of four (four home, four away; one series in each half-season). For consistency’s sake, the “local” teams are usually also parceled in fours, though it’s fairly common for the series to move between parks in mid-set. (We’ve already seen this.) Nonetheless the Lugnuts begin their existence with an odd single-month schedule.
The league’s longest road trip, I learn from Baseball America, is between Lansing and Burlington. The trip between Lansing and Cedar Rapids is about the same length. So is Lansing to Appleton. Well, our guys have done all of those trips, and come home between. I suppose they’ve become fairly familiar with the bus. At least they’ve got the longest rides over with. This is not the common practice. In general, a trip to Cedar Rapids or Burlington includes a stop in another Iowa ballpark, and a trip to the Fox Cities is via Beloit or Rockford. It’s cheaper that way. And the bus rides are shorter.
There’s a problem with this scheduling practice. It’s difficult to make up a game if you call it off, unless the teams involved are in the same division. The league generally reschedules rained-out games to later in the same series, but since the rainout in the Wisconsin series was the last game, that isn’t possible. Inasmuch as the Lugnuts aren’t scheduled to play any closer to Appleton than Beloit for the entire remainder of the summer, a makeup game in Wisconsin will be difficult to schedule. That’s why the game was marked “cancelled” in some listings. We’ll see what actually happens.
I’m not about to take sides in the Lugnuts dispute with the Royals about playing in the cold. It’s not a “silly” dispute; the concerns are legitimate. Both sides have their reasons, and understand the other’s reasons. Probably this will pass.
Personally, I want some warmth, and some sunshine. It’s been winter far too long.
“Wisconsin,” then as now, means Appleton (actually Grand Chute). Since I complained about the Battle Cats geography after the last series, I suppose I should object to this name. And I do.
Much of this is obsolete. In 1996 the league had 14 teams in three divisions, while there are now 16 teams and two divisions. In 1996 the teams played eight games against teams in other divisions; since 2010 each team’s played only four games against teams in the other conference, and alternated home/away hosting by year. Part of the reason for this change was to reduce the number of long road trips.
On the other hand, adding Dayton, Lake County, and Bowling Green into the mix has made for lots of long road trips–frankly, the league’s 2006 rejection of South Bend’s proposed move to Marion on the basis of the lengthy bus trips now sounds pretty silly. (Ignoring, for the moment, that the official explanation for the rejection may have differed from the actual reason.)
The main point–about the irrational Lugnuts schedule in April of 1996–stands. The game wasn’t rescheduled. It’s worth mentioning that I’ve seen similarly odd MWL schedules since.
The email mix described continued through the year. The Midwest League Guide site never drew as much “foreign” mail, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.
Fixing the Baseball America link reminded me how long it took for BA to appreciate the web. For several years they tried adding content to other folks’ sites. Only after FanLink collapsed (late in 1998) did they begin to build their own website.
The “rainout” discussion’s still true, though I note that the League’s occasionally found it necessary/appropriate to reschedule rainouts to otherwise open dates.
I don’t recall the details of the Royals/Lugnuts disagreement, and am a bit surprised that it became public. I do recall that its roots were in Lansing’s unwillingness to postpone games due to bad weather–and apparently I got an email calling the disagreement silly. The problem, as in Dayton a few years later, was that the season was sold out and cancelling dates would cause problems for the fans. The Royals, of course, were concerned about injuries resulting from bad weather conditions.
In the event you’ve just stumbled onto this entry, here’s an explanation of what I’m up to.