Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Shadows across the infield were a major problem in Game 1 in St. Louis. They could be again in Game 2, and in Washington for Game 3. How can MLB fix this scheduling issue?
In October, the angle of the sun is lower and it sets earlier (6:34 p.m. for October 7) and that meant significant shadows across the playing field during the game. Cardinals players were not happy:
"I walked out there today and said: ‘2-1. We’re going to win 2-1.’ Because I knew whatever happened the first four innings would be the way the game ended up unless something crazy happened," said first baseman Lance Berkman, sidelined for the series with ongoing knee issues.
"You’ve got four innings to score before the shadow moves across the plate. It’s not like either team hit the ball well. There were errors and walks that created scoring opportunities. There are good hitters on both teams but you didn’t see that."
That almost happened, as the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead before the Nats rallied late to win 3-2. The same thing might happen Monday afternoon, with a 3:30 p.m. CT starting time. The problem is summed up well here:
The complaint is hardly new locally. [Matt] Holliday, Berkman and several teammates loudly objected to mid-afternoon start times last season. The club responded by moving all afternoon games to no later than 1:05 p.m. However, rightsholders Fox and TBS control the postseason alignment.
And there's the issue. There were also complaints in past years when postseason games were scheduled at the same time, meaning fans couldn't watch every pitch of every game. The spreading out into four different time slots -- as was done Sunday, and will be done again Wednesday if the two series that currently stand 2-0 aren't complete -- solves this problem, but creates another.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but it appears the desire to put the Yankees in a prime-time television slot might have dictated Sunday's problem. With just one host team in each league located in the Pacific time zone, you really have only two choices for that team to play on a four-game day: early afternoon PT, or the mid-evening slot.
Sunday, for example, TBS could have put the Giants and Reds in that afternoon slot (meaning a noon PT start), and had the Cardinals and Nationals at 8:30 p.m. CT -- late, but other Central time zone teams have been pushed into that spot for postseason games in recent years. That would have avoided that midafternoon shadow issue. Had they swapped the two games Monday, that would have made for a 4:30 p.m. ET start at Yankee Stadium -- late enough that shadows wouldn't have been an issue.
It's more than just the Cardinals concerned about this in their series:
Davey Johnson lobbies for prime time or early-afternoon start in DC for Gm. 3: "I hope it's not 4 o'clock. . . . The sun is really terrible"— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 8, 2012
TBS could do this, too, if all four series are still going Wednesday, by putting the Nats and Cardinals in the noon ET slot; the A's and Tigers at noon PT (3 ET); and then slotting the other two games, which would both be played in the Eastern time zone, in late-afternoon and early-evening slots, though a 9:30 ET start for a home game in Cincinnati or New York would be pretty late.
That might mean going back to overlapping games; it's probably the fairest solution, so we don't have the sun being a factor when it doesn't have to be.