KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It could have been Major League Baseball’s worst nightmare, a calamity of epic proportions.
Instead, the folks at MLB mercifully changed their minds and preserved the greatest marketing commodity in the game.
After initially rejecting the Royals’ request Sunday, MLB postponed their game against the Angels at Kauffman Stadium. Yes, the two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani was scheduled to pitch.
Several players wondered aloud earlier in the day whether they had to play simply because Ohtani was scheduled to start for the Angels on Jackie Robinson Day.
Twenty-five minutes before Shohei Time, the show was canceled.
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Can you imagine MLB trying to explain itself if Ohtani had injured himself while pitching in 35-degree weather with a 21-degree wind chill?
‘‘I was a little worried about pitching in the cold weather,’’ Ohtani said after the postponement. ‘‘I couldn’t feel my fingertips. I couldn’t feel the ball. It was a concern of mine.’’
So now Sundays With Shohei will turn to Tuesday Nights With Ohtani. He’ll start Tuesday against the Red Sox at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, and conceivably every Tuesday in the future until, of course, another game is postponed because of weather.
There already have been 22 postponements this season, six on Sunday alone. It’s the second-most postponements MLB has had through April since 2000, and the month is only half over.
The 22nd postponement will rob Boston of its finest April tradition: the Patriots’ Day game at Fenway Park, which runs concurrently with the Boston Marathon. It’s the first such postponement since 1984.
‘‘It’s the topic of every press conference we’ve had with the exception of two [games],’’ Royals manager Ned Yost said. ‘‘It’s cold. You look at the game they had in Chicago with Atlanta [on Saturday], and it was bitter, bitter cold there.’’
It prompted Cubs manager Joe Maddon to blast MLB after his team’s 14-10 victory, saying the game never should have been played with it being 38 degrees with a 28-degree wind chill and a misty rain.
‘‘That’s not baseball weather,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘The elements were horrific to play baseball. It’s not conducive.
‘‘We’ll do what we’re asked or told to, but those were the worst elements I’ve ever experienced in a game. Ever. And I’ve been in some pretty bad stuff.’’
The weather in Kansas City was expected to be a bit warmer than in Chicago, but it’s hardly conducive to baseball when Angels star Mike Trout, wearing a black ski mask, joked that he wanted to drag a space heater into center field to keep warm.
‘‘If there was no wind, we would have played,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ‘‘We played in 33-degree weather before. But that wind made it bitter. MLB made the right decision.’’
The decision just came later than it should have.
‘‘We had internal discussions about it, and we talked about it with MLB,’’ Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. ‘‘But they made it very clear that unless there’s rain or snow, the game will be played. We’re in a very unique and abnormal weather pattern. It’s not fun for anybody.’’
Just ask the Twins, who had the last three games of their series against the White Sox wiped out because of snow, already leaving them with five postponements in the first two weeks.
Certainly, no one is blaming anyone for the cruel spring. Then again, after the players’ union secured four extra days of rest during the season in the last collective-bargaining agreement, MLB has been left with little choice but to schedule games in late March and early April to try to avoid playing games in November.
Maybe a Thanksgiving World Series game wouldn’t be quite so bad, after all.
If nothing else, it’s time for the union and MLB to negotiate weather conditions in which games can be played in the next CBA. How about not starting games when the temperature is colder than 40 degrees? How about automatically stopping games when it starts to rain? How about looking out for the fans who have to sit through the horrendous weather?
Kansas City is a fabulous baseball town. But even on Jackie Robinson Day, with the modern-day Babe Ruth on the mound, the Royals said they had sold only 14,000 seats because of the weather and anticipated a crowd half that size even showing up.
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