Frigid Approach: MLB Strikes Out with Postseason Scheduling

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IOctober 20, 2009

As I watched the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels go at it for Game Three of the ALCS, I couldn't help but notice one thing.

No snow caps.

No mittens.

No heat warmers in the dugout.

The teams are enjoying a beautiful day in the California sunshine without a cloud in the sky.

Then tonight, there will be Los Angeles Dodgers locking up with the Philadelphia Phillies for Game Four of the NLCS.

In snow caps.

And mittens.

And packing heat warmers to regain feeling in their limbs.

So why would you possibly schedule the west coast game for the early time slot and the east coast for primetime?

Not only will the weather be considerably cooler in the primetime slot for the Dodgers and Phillies, but also it is far less convenient for fans in the city of Brotherly Love to make their way to the stadium.

Take the late start time of eight o’clock, couple that with the drawing out of a postseason game via pitching changes, and fans in attendance won’t be leaving the yard until after midnight.

Look no further than on Saturday night when the Yankees and Angels played an epic ALCS Game Two.

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So epic that it took five hours and 12 minutes to complete—ending the contest at around 1 a.m. eastern time.

It would have been a hundred times more enjoyable for most fans (especially those in attendance) if that game had started at 4 p.m. eastern time, and not 8 p.m.

This ridiculousness also occurred in the first round, when the Dodgers played a day game in sunny L.A. while the Rockies and Phillies waited until nighttime—and were eventually postponed—to lockup in an NLDS contest.

The problem is so simple to fix that it baffles even the biggest fans of Bud Selig.

Sure, Selig wants the Yankees on when everyone is coming home from work and to be on before Monday Night Football, as to ensure the fans of New York no dilemma’s with their nightly television viewing.

Because, you know, there are so many Yankees fans that would have to make the difficult decision between watching the ALCS and a pedestrian AFC West game between the Chargers and Broncos.

Major League Baseball has become so obsessed with trying to tailor the playoff schedule for the highest television ratings possible that it has come in exchange of the quality of the game on the field.

Maybe they want the heat warmers in the dugouts to inspire more stories like when Derek Lowe, playing for the Dodgers at the time, burnt a part of his pants while trying to get warm in front of one.

Then again, it’s possible that Selig just wants his own version of the snow plow game, re-inspired by the blizzard-type conditions over the weekend in the Patriots-Titans game.

The late start times and eventual November dates for World Series games are an evolving trend that are becoming more tiresome year-by-year.

Baseball was not meant to be played in near-freezing temperatures by players covered head to toe in fleece.

You see that little white ball and that solid wood bat?

Things change when it’s cold out, I don’t have to tell you that twice, and we are subject to a far lesser quality of game because of these start times.

The ball lends lesser grips to the pitcher, inevitably forcing them to use some sort of foreign substance to gain back feeling on the rawhide.

The bat gets much denser, making balls hit off the sweet spot come off with less of a thwack and more of a thud.

The problem is then compounded by the much larger bone I have to pick with Selig, which is the extra days off during the league championship series that are distorting the way series are managed and pennants are decided.

Los Angeles and Philadelphia played Game Three on Sunday, Game Four on Monday, and then have to wait until Wednesday to play Game Four so that there can be at least one game from each league on each night.

Then they take Thursday as a travel day back to L.A., making them play a lofty three games between Monday and Friday.

Heaven forbid we made professional baseball players play three straight days, I mean, they never do that during a 162-game regular season so there’s no way they can be prepared for that.

What ends up occurring is that the days off devalue what it means to make the playoffs as a team.

Throughout the season, it’s not just the first and second starters that win a division title, it’s also the third, fourth, and fifth starters who make the team whole.

Then in the postseason, those back-end of the rotation pitchers are shunned to the land where time forgot: They get left off the postseason roster.

Take Jeff Weaver, or Jon Garland, on the Dodgers as an example of this phenomenon.

Weaver, although he pitched above his expectations, performed an important role for the Joe Torre and the Dodgers throughout the course of the season. He provided a steady arm in long relief out of the bullpen, and also provided the club with a spot start when their makeshift rotation fell apart mid-season.

He made the roster for the divisional series, and pitched a hugely important inning-and-one-third in relief of Randy Wolf to earn a victory in Game One versus the Cardinals.

His reward?

Getting bumped off the league championship series roster for rookie Scott Elbert, who Torre was too frightened to use in his designed role during a fifth inning meltdown by Clayton Kershaw.

As for Garland, a man who possesses a World Series ring, he pitched brilliantly after coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks as a late-season acquisition.

He filled in for opening day starter Hiroki Kuroda down the stretch run, because Kuroda was drilled in the head with a line drive on Aug. 15 (he also missed a considerable amount of time earlier in the season with a strained oblique).

Kuroda then missed his final start of the season because of a herniated disc in his neck.

Garland’s reward?

A spot in the bullpen on the divisional series roster (where he was never used or needed), because Kuroda wasn’t yet healthy, and then a ticket home for the league championship series in favor of suddenly healthy Kuroda.

And we all know how Kuroda fared, with the Phillies hitting for the cycle within the first eight batters of the game and chasing him in the second inning en route to an 11-0 Phillies victory.

All of this because baseball screws with the postseason schedule and draws out series for far too long.

If the league championship series didn’t have an extra day off, the Dodgers and Phillies would have been forced to change their rotation alignment, therefore putting more value on the back-end of the rotation pitchers.

Don’t get me wrong, October baseball is nirvana for this fan of the game, but something has to give with this nonsensical scheduling routine.