MLB Playoffs 2011: Are Unusual Start Times for Television Ratings Hurting Teams?

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MLB Playoffs 2011: Are Unusual Start Times for Television Ratings Hurting Teams?
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Albert Pujols questioned the start time of Game 3 of the ALDS due to the shadows at Busch Stadium.

"Maybe if we were the New York Yankees maybe we would have played an 8 [p.m.] game today. It is what it is. I just don't understand when we play a 4 [p.m.] game."

That was what Albert Pujols had to say following his club's 3-2 loss to the Phillies in Game 3 of the National League Division Series Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

Pujols brings up an interesting point. Are television schedules for the postseason hurting the game by making it more difficult for some teams than others?

Using Pujols' example, the first pitch of the Phillies-Cardinals game Tuesday was around 4 p.m. central time, during which shadows cast darkness on much of the playing surface, making it difficult for hitters and fielders alike.

The Yankees and Tigers, by contrast, played under the bright lights of Comerica Park at 8:30 p.m. eastern time, when the sun is gone and there are no shadows to contend with.

Pujols' statement made it sound as if the reason the Yankees are playing at night is because that's prime time for television ratings, and the general public would much rather watch the Yankees than the Cards or Phillies.

Perhaps that's true.

But the issue with Pujols' argument is that both his Cardinals and the Phillies had to deal with the shadows, meaning neither side had any special advantage. One could even argue that since the Cardinals were playing in their home ballpark, they had the advantage, shadows or not.

So is Pujols right? Should start times for postseason games not be determined in part by the interests of TBS, TNT, and Fox, each carrying the postseason live in 2011?

The capitalist would likely argue that since baseball is a business, the commissioner's office needs to work with the television carriers, and barring any undue influence, there's nothing wrong with setting times to accommodate the needs of the television-viewing audience.

The baseball purist, however, might suggest that postseason play should take place like it did in the old days, during the day, television ratings or not.

It's an intriguing question, but as Pujols went on to say, "the league knows we have tough shadows out there, but there's nothing you can do. They're making their money, they're paying their money. I guess they put the game time however they want it."

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