The Red Sox play their home opener today, and good Lord or Al Gore willing, they’ll be able to do it without icicles hanging from the hair on Josh Beckett’s chinny-chin-chin. But it’s virtually a given the Fenway faithful’s teeth will be chattering today and for the rest of the homestand.

Cold-weather baseball is a fact of life in the northeast and midwest as long as they’re playing a 162-game season with no scheduled doubleheaders. It’s almost a rite of spring here in New England.

From Farmington to Boston, I’ve witnessed more baseball games wearing long johns than shorts, so normally whenever someone complains about playing baseball in the cold, my first instinct is to laugh.

But someone had the brilliant idea to start the season in places like Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Chicago last week, and all it produced was needless injuries, havoc with the schedule and some bad baseball.

Exactly half of the 30 MLB teams play in warm-weather cities or have a dome/retractable roof. It may seem unfair to give these 15 cities the priviledge of opening every season at home, but how fair is it to ask the players to play or have their fans watch them under more layers than Roseanne and Tom Arnold’s wedding cake.

Now admittedly, baseball had some bad luck last week. The chilly weather dipped down as far south as Atlanta and Arlington, where I could have sworn I saw Leon Lett slide in at the last second and knock a Julio Lugo bunt into fair territory on Sunday night. But at least the wind chill wasn’t in the teens and they weren’t building snowmen on the diamond like they were at Hadlock Field.

That brings us to the Eastern League, which demonstrated this week that lack of common sense is handed down from majors to minors. The league had four of its openers postponed last Thursday and had weekend series in Portland, Erie, PA and Akron, OH wiped out completely.

The Eastern League has its teams alternate opening at home and on the road each year, a sore point with Sea Dogs General Manager Charlie Eshbach, who has seen three home opening series snowed out in the last seven years. Eshbach would prefer the league acknowledge Mother Nature’s power over all of us and start the season in its southern-most outposts.

Granted, Erie and Akron would be among those south of the Eastern League’s hypothetical Mason-Dixon line. But those places aren’t going to have every other opener snowed out, either.

At least I don’t think they will. I haven’t seen any of Gore’s movies, though.


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