Shohei Ohtani's start postponed after MLB first planned to play through 30-degree weather


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Perhaps Angels catcher Martin Maldonado put it best, saying, ‘It’s impressive. We haven’t seen that before.’
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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.

MLB, after initially rejecting the Kansas City Royals’ request, postponed the Royals’ game Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Yes, the game Shohei Ohtani was scheduled to pitch.

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Several players wondered aloud earlier in the day whether they had to play simply because Ohtani was scheduled to start for the Angels, in front of a national TV audience on Jackie Robinson Day.

Twenty-five minutes before Shohei Time, the show was cancelled.

Can you imagine MLB trying to explain itself if Ohtani had injured himself pitching in the 35-degree weather with a 21-degree wind-chill?

“I was a little worried about pitching in the cold weather,’’ Ohtani conceded 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 Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium, and conceivably every Tuesday in the future, until, of course, their next game is cancelled because of weather.

There have already been 22 postponements this season — six alone on Sunday. It’s the second-most postponements MLB has ever 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 running concurrently with the Boston Marathon, 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 (Saturday) with Atlanta, 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 at Wrigley Field never should have been played with it being just 38 degrees with a 28-degree wind chill at game time, and played in 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, with the Cubs-Braves game postponed earlier in the day, but it’s hardly conducive to baseball when Angels All-Star center fielder 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 after initially denying the Royals’ effort to postpone it.

“We had internal discussions about it, and we talked about it with MLB,’’ Royals GM 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 Minnesota Twins, who had their entire weekend series with the Chicago White Sox wiped out from snow, already leaving them with five postponements in just the first two weeks.

Certainly, no one is blaming anyone for baseball’s cruel spring, but then again, if the collective bargaining agreement already wasn’t badly flawed for the players, they now have to live with the fact that the union bargained for four extra days of rest during the season. MLB, trying to avoid playing games in November, adhered by starting the season on March 29.

Oops.

Maybe a Thanksgiving World Series game wouldn’t be quite so bad, after all.

If nothing else in the next CBA, it’s time for the union and MLB to negotiate weather conditions in which games can be played. How about not starting games when the temperature is under 40 degrees? How about automatically stopping games when played in rain? How about looking out for the fans who have to sit through the horrendous weather?

Kansas City is a fabulous town, with a baseball history as rich as its barbecue, but even on Jackie Robinson Day, with the modern-day Babe Ruth on the mound, the Royals said they had only sold 14,000 seats because of the weather, and anticipated a crowd half that size even showing up.

Really, several scouts and baseball executives thought the Angels were taking an unnecessary risk by even letting Ohtani start.

Ohtani grew up in cold weather, living in rural Oshu, Japan, 300 miles north of Tokyo, but he doesn’t remember having to ever pitch in weather this cold. In Japan, pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters, their home games were in the Sapporo Dome. In his first two starts this season in Oakland and Anaheim, Calif., the game-time temperatures were 66 and 73 degrees, respectively.

He wasn’t even wearing a coat when he arrived at the Angels’ clubhouse Sunday, whether by design to show that he wasn’t going to be intimidated, or simply unaware that not every ballpark has the same weather as California.

“I don’t think it would have been an issue if he pitched,’’ Scioscia said. “At some point, not only pitchers, but players, have to play when the weather gets cold. Whether it’s it at the beginning of the season, the end of the season, or the playoffs, you’re going to have to be in weather that’s not very comfortable.

“I don’t think it would have been an issue if he pitched.’’

Thankfully, we may never know, at least this season.

The Angels don’t travel to a cold-weather city again until May 8, with a two-day trip to Colorado, and they don’t have any games again in the Midwest or East until late May.

Considering the 13-3 Angels are off to their best start in franchise history, maybe they won’t have to deal with the cold again until the playoffs.

Maybe then, and only then, will we know whether the cold will have any impact on Ohtani.

For now, all we know for is that Mother Nature is the only thing that can stop him.

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