All those East Coast writers and talk show hosts who always complain that World Series games should start earlier got their wish with the new MLB TV deal announced Tuesday. Under the new schedule, the World Series will begin on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday.
Or is that not what they meant by "earlier"?
The move, beginning in 2007, is being made to raise TV ratings, which is what baseball should be doing. Higher ratings, after all, mean more fans are watching the games, which is pretty much the entire point of putting them on TV in the first place.
"Saturday is a terrible TV night," commissioner Bud Selig said. "Sunday is OK but Saturday is a tough night and we do it twice [during the Series]. We just weren't very smart about it."
Fill in your own punch line here.
Baseball went to the weekend World Series opener when it switched to the seven-game league championship series format in 1985. It made sense with the LCS ending on a Wednesday or Thursday. Besides, back then Saturday night wasn't that far removed from being the night to stay home and watch TV. Yes folks, life was boring in those days. Thank God it's much more exciting in today's hip, fast times so we can stay home on Saturday nights to watch movies and play video games on our TV sets.
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Baseball, as usual, doesn't know exactly how it will rework the schedule, but it has some ideas. To begin the World Series on Tuesday and avoid the Series stretching into November, baseball has to end the league championship series four days earlier. Baseball COO Bob DuPuy suggested this could be done by tinkering with the regular-season schedule. It wouldn't take much. Start the season a couple days earlier -- say, on Friday or Saturday in warm weather cities instead of Sunday or Monday -- and then cut out a couple off days or add a doubleheader and the regular season would end on a Wednesday or a Thursday.
This makes sense. The regular season won't end on the weekend anymore, but so what? In cities such as Kansas City or Pittsburgh, the final Saturday and Sunday of the baseball season is usually spent watching football anyway. And in the other cities where the local team remains in competition, fans will come out to the park no matter what day it is. Plus, the World Series will end that much earlier in October.
The change is good. And while baseball is at it, here are two other changes to consider:
1. Reduce the off days in the playoffs. Right now, postseason teams get a day off before the Division Series, a day off (or two) during the Division Series, a day off between the Division Series and the LCS, then two days off during the LCS. The extra off days come in handy when there is a rainout, but they also provide a crucial advantage to teams that don't have pitching depth.
Unlike all the other sports, baseball is a daily game and teams often play 10-15 days in a row. This tests a staff's pitching depth, and the lesser teams are weeded out. But once you get into the postseason, it no longer matters as much because of the frequent days off. Suddenly, a team with a couple great starters has the advantage. Eliminate one off day from the schedule and you get a better gauge of which teams really are the best.
2. Start the games earlier on Saturday and Sunday. It's pure nonsense when East Coasters complain that World Series games start too late at night. With four major time zones, no starting time is ideal, and scheduling weekday games earlier for the East Coast would mean West Coast fans would still be at the office or stuck in traffic for much of them.
That said, you could start weekend games earlier without such rush hour/school/work conflicts. You might even pick up a few viewers who otherwise have pressing social plans for the most important night of the week. Like trying to hook up on MySpace.com.
BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
Meanwhile, this year's World Series will open in an American League park, again. The National League led the All-Star Game 2-1 in the ninth inning only to see Trevor Hoffman give up three straight hits and lose 3-2, giving the AL home-field advantage in the World Series again. His line:
1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
"We were all laughing and having a good time," outfielder Jason Bay said of the mood in the dugout before the AL's rally. "But it doesn't matter whether it's the regular season or the All-Star Game when that happens. It sucks the air right out of the dugout."
Despite the change in World Series format, it should be noted that home-field advantage hasn't mattered. The Series hasn't gone seven games since the switch.
TELL YOUR STATISTICS TO SHUT UP
It only took 37 years, but the Pilots, the beloved team of "Ball Four," finally won another game in Seattle. The Mariners are in their 30th season, and they finally honored the city's former big league team with a Turn Back the Clock Day in which they wore Pilots uniforms, including the infamous scrambled-egg design on the bill. Not only that, they did something the Pilots seldom did in their lone 1969 season: they won, beating Detroit 3-2. As for the uniforms? "The uniforms looked good," Ichiro said, "but the caps? " Not so much. The Pirates are the only team to have nothing but losing seasons in between hosting two All-Star Games (between 1994 and this season). The Cubs also did not have a winning season in between the 1957 All-Star Game at Wrigley Field and the 1962 game there, but they did manage one .500 season. Washington fans, meanwhile, lost one Senators team and gained another in between All-Star Games in D.C.