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Play Ball Already!

It would've been so easy for Major League Baseball to do the smart thing. Big surprise, they went the other way.

Since 1990, the World Series has been scheduled to begin on a Saturday. This year, realizing that Saturday is also the lowest-rated TV night of the week, MLB decided to begin the Series on a Wednesday. Why not? But it meant a schedule change.

Seven non-playing days (travel days and off days) were built into the 2006 playoffs schedule. Beginning the Series on a Wednesday meant MLB had a choice: They could move Game 1 up to Wednesday, October 17th (and eliminate three non-playing days), or push it back to Wednesday, October 24 (and add four non-playing days).

Here’s a way the former option might've looked:

ALDS (Best of five):

  • Monday, October 1: Travel day
  • Tuesday, October 2: Game 1 at Ballpark A
  • Wednesday, October 3: Game 2 at Ballpark A
  • Thursday, October 4: Game 3 at Ballpark B
  • Friday, October 5: Game 4 at Ballpark B (if necessary)
  • Saturday October 6: Game 5 at Ballpark A (if necessary)

ALCS (Best of seven):

  • Sunday, October 7: Travel day
  • Monday, October 8: Game 1 at Ballpark A
  • Tuesday, October 9: Game 2 at Ballpark A
  • Wednesday, October 10: Travel day
  • Thursday, October 11: Game 3 at Ballpark B
  • Friday, October 12: Game 4 at Ballpark B
  • Saturday, October 13: Game 5 at Ballpark B (if necessary)
  • Sunday, October 14: Game 6 at Ballpark A (if necessary)
  • Monday, October 15: Game 7 at Ballpark A (if necessary)

This schedule would've:

  1. Forced teams to use their fourth and sometimes fifth starters the way they did during the regular season.
  2. Eliminated extra travel days—the way they do during the regular season. The four days off (minimum) during this two-week playoff period still compares favorably to the regular season. During all of September, the Boston Red Sox got just three days off.
  3. Given us the World Series a week earlier. The most important games of the season would have that much more of a chance of being played under weather conditions similar to the regular season.

Instead they added four non-playing days (including one right in the middle of a homestand!) and scheduled the Series to begin on October 24th. What does this mean?

  1. It means they've scheduled a total of 11 off-days during the playoffs. And that's assuming every post-season series goes the max—which, so far, no series has. By the time the World Series begins, for example, Colorado will have had as many days off in October (16) as they did during the entire six months of the regular season.
  2. Teams don't have to rely on their fourth and fifth starters. They can keep using only their best relief pitchers. They don’t have to dance with those that brung them.
  3. Game 7 of the World Series—potentially the biggest game of the year—is scheduled for November. So much for the boys of summer.

You'd think if you had the chance to make the most important games of the year more like the rest of the season, you'd do it. Major League Baseball hasn't.

Once, early in his career, sportswriter Thomas Boswell was interviewing Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver in the dugout when the National Anthem began playing. Weaver kept talking but Boswell wondered aloud if maybe they shouldn't stand. "Relax kid," Weaver told him. "We do this every day."

Well, we used to.

October 16, 2007