Craig Calcaterra

World Series

The Mets will have five days off before the World Series. Why?

44 Comments

The Mets clinched the NL pennant just after 11:30 Eastern time on Wednesday night. They will not see a pitch thrown in anger until sometime after 8PM on Tuesday. In between, five full days off. That seems like a lot, yes?

Yes. It does, even when you account for the still-ongoing ALCS. And while we’re used to the NFL taking two weeks off in between its penultimate and final rounds, such a layoff in non-contact sports seems wrong. As Earl Weaver once said, “This ain’t a football game, we do this every day.” At least until the World Series starts, then we make darn sure we start on a Tuesday, regardless of when the league champions are determined. Why?

A simple answer is television. Fox pays a ton of money to Major League Baseball to broadcast the World Series and Fox wants to guarantee the highest ratings it possibly can. Historically speaking, mid-week ratings are better for baseball than weekend ratings and a Tuesday start means that four of the possible seven games would take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. A fifth would be on a Friday, which is the best weekend night. Avoided: Thursday, which has an NFL broadcast. Also avoided: having more than one game on a Saturday and Sunday, during which NFL and college football ratings would eat Fox up for dinner.

But there is more to this than merely avoiding conflicts with football. For one thing, Fox — unlike TBS, Fox Sports 1 and ESPN — has a set prime time schedule it needs to work around and doesn’t want to mess with any more than it has to. Having set nights well in advance lets them sell ad time for “Gotham,” “Empire” and “Bob’s Burgers.” An uncertain schedule set to begin, say, two days after the LCS is over, doesn’t let the entertainment and sales people plan. Which, sure, scoff if you want because you’re a baseball fan, but they have jobs to do too and that stuff pays the bills which allow the networks to bid on sports in the first place.

Beyond mere ratings and financial considerations are logistical ones. Major League Baseball, its sponsors, the teams and their supporting staffs as well as the media which covers it all book thousands of hotel rooms for its “jewel events” like the All-Star Game and the World Series. This entails taking over multiple entire hotels, preferably close to the ballpark. You can’t book that on two days notice. Seriously: go try to book a downtown Kansas City hotel right now and see what you can find. Indeed, it’s hard enough to do it on a month’s notice, and you have less than a month in between the time we’ve narrowed it down to ten teams and when the Fall Classic begins. By having a set start date and knowing which league is the home league, you can at least begin to plan in a somewhat manageable fashion.

But wait, there’s more!

Fox doesn’t just show up at a ballpark in an Econoline van like some punk band showing up at a club, plug in to the existing sound system and start jamming. They have to load in cameras and equipment and their production trucks and those studio sets and desks and the crates in which they store Ken Rosenthal and Pete Rose when they’re not being used. That stuff will have to travel between wherever the last out happens in the LCS Fox is covering and get to wherever the World Series is. You have to book those trucks and those crews and have time to run the cable and do all of that.

Finally — and I don’t mean this sarcastically, even though it’d be easy to take it that way — think of the promotional people. The sponsors and publicists and P.R. and media relations folks who spend a lot of time launching ad campaigns, charitable efforts and promotional campaigns tied to the World Series. Someone has to plant some B-list TV star in the stands for that seemingly coincidental appearance. Someone has to park a bunch of Chevy Trucks in conspicuous places in order to make it seem like everyone with sense doesn’t realize that Fords are better. Less trivially, someone has to print up and distribute the Stand Up to Cancer placards and arrange for the metric ton of patriotism we seem to require for baseball. The only thing that happens quickly along these lines are bringing in the F/A-18s for the pregame flyover because those suckers can book it there at Mach 1.8.

That’s a lot of stuff to plan. And that’s just the stuff I have observed and baseball people I’ve talked to mention whenever this topic comes up. There are likely things no one but a handful of coordinators and assistants think of that haven’t even crossed our minds.

Do we need all of that stuff simply to put on a ballgame? Nah. But we do need all of that stuff to mount a major entertainment production. And, like it or not, that’s what Major League Baseball is now, especially when it comes to the World Series. It’s what pays the bills and what, in turn, allows your favorite players to be paid. To ignore that fact and complain about baseball being a slave to TV or the tail wagging the dog is simply naive.

Besides: if the five days of rest cools off Daniel Murphy‘s bat, maybe the Mets will be able to keep him a bit cheaper than they may have otherwise. That’d be OK, right?

The Blue Jays are playing a man down due to a dumb roster rule

Aaron Loup
7 Comments

Blue Jays reliever reliever Aaron Loup had a family emergency that caused him to miss Game 4 of the ALCS yesterday and Game 5 today. That leaves the Jays one man short. Why? Because there is no bereavement leave in the playoffs.

As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post explains, the Jays even petitioned the league to allow them to put Loup on the disabled list. They did this knowing that, if he was DL’d, he’d be lost for the World Series if the Jays get that far too. That rule makes sense in that it keeps teams from making phony DL designations.

The no bereavement rule, however, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps it’s there in order to prevent roster shenanigans as well, but this isn’t middle school and no one is going to lie about their grandmother dying or come back with a phony excuse note signed “Epstein’s Mother’s Doctor.” In this day and age such a thing would not be able to be kept a secret either, and any team which tried to game the bereavement list in the playoffs would have to deal with a huge fallout. It’s just not worth it and is pretty self-policing, one would think.

A team should be allowed to replace a player if real life intrudes and deprives them of his services. Here’s hoping Major League Baseball revisits this rule.

Ned Yost can’t wait to see “35 drunk guys try to get through customs”

Division Series - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City Royals - Game Three
7 Comments

Ned Yost was on MLB Network radio’s pregame show with Grant Paulsen and Jim Bowden this afternoon. As you may be aware, his Kansas City Royals are poised to clinch the AL pennant this evening in Toronto.

Which would immediately be followed by a flight back to the United States. If so, Ned Yost has something he’s looking for:

“I told the coaches today, if we can win this game, it’s going to be really really fun watching 35 drunk guys try to get through customs . . . That’s what I’m hoping to see.”

Listen:
Which is fine. If they do it tonight they’ll have five days off to recover.