HEISER: It may be time to consider fewer regular-season games for high school baseball
- Because of poor weather, very few area high school baseball games have yet been played.
- Under PIAA rules, high school teams can play up to 20 regular-season games.
- It may be time to consider reducing that limit to 15 games.
Maybe it’s time to rethink things.
Maybe it’s time to recognize that late March and early April aren't especially favorable to playing baseball in south-central Pennsylvania.
Maybe it’s time to come to the realization that less can sometimes be more.
Maybe it’s time to shorten the high school baseball season.
When you get a foot of snow on the first day of spring and a dusting of the white stuff on the second day of April, a higher power may be trying to tell you something.
High school teams simply don't need to cram 20 regular-season baseball games into just seven spring weeks.
During the best of springs, that’s an average of about three games and three practices per week. In these parts, however, we rarely experience the best of springs.
More often than not, spring is famously fickle. One day it can be 72 degrees with glorious sunshine, and the next day it can be 40 with sideways sleet.
This year, however, the spring hasn’t even been fickle. It’s been consistently nasty.
As a result, the high school baseball season, that was supposed to start Friday, March 23, has hardly gotten out of the batter's box yet, with just a smattering of games played, and the forecast for the next 10 days doesn’t look promising.
Left in a quandary: It's left many area coaches and athletic directors in a quandary about how to move forward. It’s a problem for all outdoor spring sports, of course, but baseball is hardest hit because the grass fields are slow to dry and pitchers are limited by strict pitch-count rules.
Jamming 20 games into seven weeks is hard enough, but trying to do it over five weeks, or less, will be exponentially more difficult. The mountain of postponements has created a scheduling nightmare.
Pitching staffs to be stretched thin: Pitching staffs will be strained to the absolute limit by playing four and five games per week, especially given the pitch-count rules. Those rules, passed before last season to protect the health of young, developing arms, are a good reform.
This year, however, the uncooperative weather means coaches are likely going to have to go five or even six pitchers deep in the rotation on a regular basis.
How many high school teams have quality No. 5 and No. 6 starters?
The answer? Very few, or maybe none.
Heck, some teams barely have enough players to field a nine-man team.
Combine the strain on the pitching staffs with the lack of quality outdoor practice time and you could get some very ugly baseball — lots of walks, lots of errors, lots of loooong games.
A valid argument could be made that reducing the number of regular-season games is an overreaction to an abnormally brutal spring.
Advantages of fewer games: Still, cutting down the regular season to 15 games could solve a myriad of issues.
Teams would have more time to practice outside and actually work on the fundamentals. Pitching staffs wouldn’t get pushed to the brink of exhaustion. And ADs and coaches wouldn’t get pushed to edge of insanity.
The drawbacks: Now there are obviously some drawbacks.
The York-Adams League schedule would likely have to be revised — at least if you want to continue to have a handful of nonleague games.
Currently, Y-A teams have 14 or 15 league games, depending which of the four divisions they are in.
Division I teams, for instance, play each of the other five D-I teams twice and each of the five D-II teams once, for 15 league games.
If you eliminate the crossover games vs. D-II squads, you’d get down to 10 league games for D-I teams, giving them five nonleague contests — the same number of nonleague games they can play right now.
If crossover games were eliminated and a 15-game regular season schedule adopted, D-II teams would enjoy even more nonleague contests, since they would only have eight league games, leaving room for seven nonleague contests.
Unlikely to happen: Of course, a 15-game regular season has practically zero chance of being adopted.
First, the PIAA would have to change its bylaws, which is a notoriously laborious process. As long as the PIAA permits 20 regular-season games, most teams will schedule 20 games. No teams will want to give up the perceived competitive advantage of playing more games.
District 3 only mandates that 10 games be played vs. PIAA schools to qualify for its power ratings, which determine district qualifiers. Still, almost every District 3 team schedules 20 games.
Second, the kids would probably hate it. I’ve never met a teen who would like to have more practices and fewer games.
In addition, it would necessarily reduce playing opportunities, which may be the biggest drawback of a shortened schedule.
Finally, the coaches probably won’t like it because it will give them fewer chances to see their players in actual game action, which is when the best judgments can typically be made.
Mother Nature may decide issue for us: Of course, this season, the ADs and coaches may not have a choice. If the weather continues to be lousy, they may only get 15 playable dates between now and the Y-A Tournament on May 15.
Mother Nature may make the call to shorten the season, without any input from anyone.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.