It’s been four months since MLB did something noteworthy with their playoff schedule, when they announced in March that they were cutting one off day in the middle of the LCS. A very minor change — deleting that off day didn’t actually move up the start date of the World Series — but a step in the right direction. Now comes an even more welcome announcement: the 2011 World Series will start earlier after all, and Opening Day will come a few days early to ensure that the World Series will be concluded by the end of October.
This requires breaking with tradition ever so slightly, so that Opening Day for most teams would be Friday, April 1, rather than on a Monday. If it’s approved, the first official games of the year will be played March 25 and 26 in Taiwan, of which Yahoo! Sports’s Kevin Kaduk disapproves: “Opening day should always occur on American (and Torontonian) soil.” Moving up Opening Day allows them to move up the playoff schedule by a week, so that the World Series will begin on October 19, 2011; this year, it’s scheduled to start on October 27.
There are a lot of off days, but, as I said in March, MLB is hamstrung by Fox’s needs. Fox spent $3 billion for the right to broadcast the World Series through 2013, and so Fox Sports essentially writes the game schedule. In order to maximize ratings, Fox tries to avoid broadcasting games on weekends, and prefers to avoid Friday night World Series games whenever possible — so off days are written in around those preferences.
Rob Neyer throws further cold water on the happy news, pointing out, “The difference between the weather on November 4 and the weather on October 27 is not, generally speaking, going to be a whole lot different, and there’s a reasonable chance it will actually be better on the 4th… Essentially, they’re trading potentially lousy weather in a few postseason games for potentially lousy weather in a few dozen regular-season games.” That’s similar to what Dan McQuade of Walkoff Walk points out is an “insanely weird defensive quote from the head of Fox Sports,” Ed Goren: “I’ve been in cities where the weather is awful in mid-October, and beautiful the first of November. So if we’re playing Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 28, and it’s snowed out, don’t blame baseball.”
We get it. But baseball’s supposed to be played from April to October — the very first World Series ever took place from October 1 to October 13, 1903, when Deacon Phillippe
led and the Pittsburgh Pirates over lost to Bill Dinneen and the Boston Americans. MLB will have to go back to the drawing board in 2013, when the next World Baseball Classic is planned, but for now it’s nice to know that the 2011 season will end some time in October, as it should.
Alex is a writer for The Hardball Times, and is an enterprise account executive for The Washington Post.