The scheduling mess that is the MLB playoffs

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As we had to sit through yet another night without baseball on Saturday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports penned a pointed piece on the scheduling embarrassment that is the MLB playoffs:

Beaucoup bucks buy Fox the leverage to insist on starting the World
Series on a Wednesday instead of the Saturday that was standard until
2007. That’s right: The World Series should have started already. Only
because Saturday night is a TV ratings sinkhole, and the potential of
two games on Saturday makes Fox executives cower, they make us wait.
And wait. And wait.


Didn’t used to be that way. Prior to 2007, there was a standard
formula employed since baseball introduced the wild card. The playoffs
always started the first Tuesday following the regular season ending.
The LCS would begin seven or eight days later. And the World Series
came 11 days after the start of the first LCS.


Now the postseason starts on a Wednesday. And while the LCS this
season began eight days later, the World Series doesn’t start until 13
days after the first LCS game. There are off days built in specifically
to adhere to Fox’s request of a Wednesday start, and with the World
Baseball Classic already pushing the season back a week, there will be
at least one – and as many as four – World Series games this November.

Because baseball was always meant to
be experienced in mittens and snow hats. At least they’ve thrown us a
bone by giving us slightly earlier start times, however the late
innings of the ALCS games have been a chore to sit through, even for
the most die-hard of fans. Coincidence or not, things have worked out
pretty well for FOX and TBS this October, although they have the
presence of the Yankees to thank for that.




The Phillies will have a week layoff
when the World Series begins on Wednesday. And as Passan points out,
such a long break isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything. More
recently, the 2006 Tigers sat for seven days and were defeated in five games by the
Cardinals, while the 2007 Rockies went nine days between games before
getting swept by the Red Sox. However, the 1995 Braves or 1996 Yankees
didn’t complain, as they both went on to win the World Series with
week-long breaks.

Imagine for second if the Yankees actually won Game 5 on Thursday. It would have been a whole six days before Game 1 of the World Series. What a joke. Again, MLB and FOX have the Yankees to thank for making things interesting and safeguarding them from a real P.R. nightmare.
  

Mad Dog Licks Boots

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Earlier this week Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported that the MLBPA and the league are heading back to the table more than two years before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires following the 2021 season.

This had been hinted at for some time, as the union has shown clear displeasure at the current state of business, particularly with the free agent market. The league, one might assume, is happy with the current state of affairs, but it also has an interest in heading off potential strife or even the hint of a labor stoppage in the future. Moreover, there are priorities which have emerged on MLB’s part since the last CBA was signed that they’d love to advance — pace of play, etc. — so they have some incentive to talk as well. So, while it’s totally newsworthy that the sides are talking, it’s also quite understandable and not particularly controversial.

It’s also quite understandable that, given that this is a negotiation between parties in an adversarial position, there will be public comments from the principles which involve advocacy or even posturing on occasion. That’s part of the deal of any negotiation that holds public interest. So, when Tony Clark, for example, says something like “the system doesn’t work,” and “either we’re going to have a conversation now, or we’re going to have a louder conversation later,” which is what he told Kepner, it’s not really a controversial thing. Indeed, it’s expected.

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo thinks it’s pretty controversial, however. The MLB Network host and talk radio legend took to the airwaves yesterday blasting Clark for not being more deferential to Rob Manfred who “was nice enough to extend him an olive branch.”  Russo likewise asked, rhetorically, what “Rob” must’ve thought when reading Clark’s quotes “over his cup of coffee, and bran muffin, on Madison Avenue, after his workout and all those things . . . his morning coffee, milk and two sugars by the way — Sweet and Low.”

He’s the Mad Dog, but he certainly licks boots here:

 

It’s amusing enough that Russo believes that Clark, Manfred’s counterpart and adversary, is supposed to be deferential and thankful for the mighty Manfred. It’s even more amusing, however, that he takes the tack of arguing that MLB has no real interest in negotiating now and is somehow merely throwing the union a bone or offering an olive branch. In saying this Russo, whether he realizes it or not, is accusing Manfred of bad faith, optics-only talks with the union. I don’t feel like Manfred thinks he’s doing that. And I don’t think Clark would be talking to him if he felt he was being patronized to either. Indeed, the dance of the last several months around all of this was, in part, to ensure that that was not the case.

I don’t know what Manfred thought about Clark’s comments on Tuesday, but I do wonder how he feels about being accused by an MLB Network employee of playing games like this. It might be enough for him to spit out his bran muffin and coffee. Cream and two sugars and all.