Ridiculous playoff game scheduling

The National Football League doesn’t do it. The National Basketball Association doesn’t do it. The National Hockey League doesn’t do it. So why does Major League Baseball continue to do it?

Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washingon Nationals began at 4:30 pm Eastern time on a Monday. The game was in St. Louis, so that means that the game actually started at 3:30 pm Central time so anyone who wanted to attend the game had to skip work in order to go. And anyone on the west coast, well, why bother with them?

Game 3 will be an even greater travesty. The game will start at 1 pm Eastern time in Washington. It will air on the MLB Network. Even Wednesday’s San Francisco Giants/Cincinnati Reds game will begin at 4 pm Eastern. I’m sure those Giants fans will enjoy that 1 pm Pacific time start.

My issue is that the majority of Cardinals, Nationals, Giants, and Reds fans will be unable to watch the game because of work. Kids will miss being exposed to the game of their local team because of school.  When you look at the playoff schedules for other major sports leagues in America, the MLB remains the only one that schedules games in the afternoon on a weekday during their playoffs. The rest all play their games in the evening, starting in prime time.

Go look at the 2012 playoff schedule for the NBA. Afternoon games are only played on weekends. On weekdays, 7 pm starts are the earliest. In fact, many times in the opening rounds two games are played at the same time and aired on two different channels. What a novel idea. The NHL does pretty much the same thing with their playoffs.

Instead, Major League Baseball schedules the games they determine that will have lesser viewing numbers for the afternoon (which basically guarantees that that thought process will continue) while the prime time game slots are reserved for the games they believe will be a big draw. That’s usually the New York Yankees. So far they’ve had a 6 pm start to Game 1, an 8 pm start to Game 2, and will have a 7:30 pm start for Game 3. Their fans haven’t had to deal with the discussion of afternoon shadows an how they hurt hitters.

Even with an abbreviated schedule to attempt to squeeze the Wild Card Game into the playoffs, it could have been done. Easily. And if it couldn’t have been, it shouldn’t have been. The #1 thing Major League Baseball should be concerning itself in the playoffs with is getting their games in front of the most fans. Unless you are getting the games in front of the eyeballs of the fans, there’s no point to televise them.

To me, their willingness to put games onto the MLB Network completely torpedoes any argument they can make for not playing concurrent games. The most you are likely to have at any one time (and most this year) is three games. You have one game on TBS, one game on TNT, and the other on the MLB Network. You can even put the preferred games on TBS and TNT and the other on MLB Network. That would actually do what Major League Baseball is hoping to do by putting some playoff games on the MLB Network. Right now, it’s not going to be effective.

What the MLB Network is attempting to do is the same thing the NFL Network did by creating Thursday Night Football. The easiest way to create viewers who want your channel is to put games on it. So that’s what they did. The idea is when you reach an impasse with the cable and satellite companies, you do this and you’ll have your want-to-be viewers calling their cable or satellite company and saying, “I want MLB Network.” In turn, they will decide that it’s something they need and will eventually come to an agreement for distribution. Much like the NFL and Time Warner Cable finally did just a couple weeks ago.

Except that putting the games on MLB Network, a channel most of the country doesn’t get, at 1 pm, a time most of the country can’t watch it, won’t do that. Instead, you’re either screwing the people who have to work or you’re screwing the people who can stay home but don’t have the MLB Network. There would be a very small cross section of baseball fans who both don’t have to work and have the MLB Network. In effect, you are actively screwing over the fan bases of two of your teams. It’s like, “Congratulations, your team made the playoffs. Now you can’t watch any of their playoff games. Yes, we know you watched 140 of your teams’ regular season games and supported them at all times, but too bad. Oh, buy our $5 PostseasonTV thing and watch a fixed camera and an audio feed on your computer.”

No good administrating body should be doing that.

Unlike most people, I really have no strong feelings either way for Bud Selig. But this. This gets me. I shouldn’t have to have MLB GameDay or MLBTV up on my computer at work to catch playoff games. I should be sitting on my couch with my chips and salsa and a cold beverage and enjoying it on my large television. Not the 3″ mini-player screen on my computer at work.

2:58 pm Update: Major League Baseball has announced start times for Games 4 and 5 of the Cardinals/Nationals Series. Game 4 will start at 4:07 pm Eastern. However, the game will drop back to 5:07 pm if the Detroit/Oakland ALDS finishes today. Friday’s potential Game 5, will be a primetime start at 8:37 pm if it makes it that far.

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