Despite earning the No. 2 seed in the American League, the Oakland A’s had to play all three games of their first-round Wild Card Series at noon local time. After winning that series, now they get to push the start time back by a whole hour.
Game 1 of the upcoming ALDS between the A’s and the Houston Astros will be played Monday at 1:07 p.m. PT. The rest of the games have not yet received start times, but they’ll take place from Tuesday through Friday (if necessary) with no off-days. The series will be held at a neutral site, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with the A’s serving as the home team in Games 1, 2, and 5 as usual for the higher seed.
Meanwhile, the other ALDS between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees gets the primetime slot. They’ll play their first game Monday at 5:07 p.m. PT at Petco Park in San Diego.
On Tuesday, the two NLDS series will join the slate for their first games, continuing through Saturday if necessary and played in Texas. Those matchups feature the Dodgers vs. Padres, and Braves vs. Marlins, mirroring the West and East battles in the AL with no Central teams remaining. See the bottom of this post for the full bracket.
MLB managed to mess this up again, or the networks, or whoever makes this final decision. I get that the Yankees get special treatment on TV because they’re the big draw, but that’s just it — how much of their supposed draw is because they continue to get every primetime spot? Rob Manfred* talks about wanting to expand the game and grow the fanbase, but refuses to highlight any other team except the one that’s been highlighted for the last century. If you can’t find national appeal and big ratings in A’s vs. Astros right now then you’re simply not very good at your job.
* And even if this kind of thing is actually the networks’ call, I’ll never not believe that Manfred couldn’t sway it if he wanted to, so I still blame him
But this goes beyond the annoying East Coast Bias to simple logistics and basic math. It shouldn’t be difficult — put on the East teams first, then the West teams, because the East fans are three hours ahead in their time zone. The current setup has one group of fans trying to watch the biggest game of the year so far at 1:00 on a Monday, while another group has to stay up until a minimum of 11:00 Monday night to watch theirs. That sounds like a bad deal for everyone.
But what if you flipped them? Now AL East fans will see their team play at 4:00 ET, while AL West fans will watch at 5:00 PT — and for Houston, it’ll be 7:00 CT, exactly the normal time for a game. How is that not objectively better for everybody? Remember that traditional work-commute times are not nearly the issue they normally are, if you’ve been paying attention to current events this year.
What’s worse, you can’t change it now. With no off-days mid-series, once a team gets the late slot in the playoffs you can’t really make them do an afternoon game the next day. Maybe the A’s could get moved back another hour or two (into the shadows of late afternoon) and an NL series could take over the earliest slot — like Braves vs. Marlins, which is easily the least interesting of all four series and also features two East clubs. But we’re probably stuck with two entire rounds of Oakland postseason held at lunchtime like a warmup act.
Keep it up, Manfred, and continue to wonder why you can’t attract new, young fans from around the country — including ones who are at school until 3:00, in normal times when school is a thing. Oh I know just add a pitch clock, or maybe require that every shortstop stand on one foot like a flamingo to encourage more offense. That should do the trick.
Tell ‘em, Jake.
OK here’s the bracket as promised.