Sunday night games to be televised an hour earlier in 2019

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ESPN will begin broadcasting baseball games on Sunday nights an hour earlier beginning in 2019, with first pitch scheduled shortly after 7 PM EDT, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports. Games had typically started shortly after 8 PM EDT. ESPN has not made an official announcement but is expected to do so at the Winter Meetings.

ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting team features Matt Vasgersian, Alex Rodriguez, Jessica Mendoza, and Buster Olney. The first Sunday Night Baseball game will see the Braves visiting the Phillies on March 31. It’s part of a TV doubleheader. The first game will be the Rangers and the Cubs in Chicago.

Other Sunday night matchups include the Dodgers and Red Sox on July 14, several instances of the Red Sox versus the Yankees, and the Little League Classic between the Pirates and Cubs in Williamsport on August 18.

Part of the reason for the change is that players had been complaining about a lack of rest. Given that the games typically end around 10:30-11 PM EST and Sunday games are typically the final game of a three- or four-game series, teams were often getting to their next destination in the early morning. As a result, players’ sleep schedules were disrupted. Such concerns were brought up during negotiations for the current collective bargaining agreement, which caused earlier start times for weekday games on getaway days.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.