Wake up Manfred because we can’t
By: Austin Alexander-October 11, 2016 (updated from 10/17/07)
The date was October 27, it was a Sunday and the year was 1986. I was an 11-year old baseball fan and on this night, either the New York Mets or the Boston Red Sox would be crowned the new World Series champion. Ron Darling versus Bruce Hurst, high drama in the Big Apple. Just a day earlier, Mookie Wilson rolled a routine groundball between the wickets of Boston’s Bill Buckner to cap an improbable comeback in Game 6 to force the winner-take-all finale.
After Boston threw up three runs in the top of the second, New York’s Darryl Strawberry strode to the plate when the clock struck 9:00…my bedtime!
My parents made no exceptions and I was forced to go to bed because I had school the next day. Ever since that night, I’ve told my folks how that was the worst thing they ever did to me and that I’d never forgive them.
That is, until I realized it was not my parents’ fault, it was Major League Baseball’s error.
Major League Baseball had two East Coast teams playing in a Game 7 and scheduled the first pitch at 8:30 p.m. Unfortunately baseball continues to make the same mistake more than 30 years later as a new generation of baseball fans have to experience monumental moments in highlight reels. These post-season games ending after midnight don’t even make the newspaper the next day!
Fast forward to last night as the NLDS rolled on Monday night. How many of you saw the San Francisco walk it off live? According to the ratings, very few people saw the game at all on an obscure channel. I have two diehard Cubs and baseball junkees aged 10 and 6 that cashed out before the game really got interesting in the 8th, they even took naps in hopes of seeing their heroes clinch…to no avail. Fortunately they saw Big Papi’s final at bat earlier, but only because that one concluded at a resonable hour.
Bottom line, even the biggest baseball fan has school on weekdays or a job they have to be present at the next day and a 9:38 on EST start time only benefits the Left Coast. Over here on this side of the Mississippi River, baseball is quickly becoming folklore more than reality to young people, actually for all of us.
I’ve heard multiple interviews recently with our commissioner Rob Manfred on this topic. He claims that countless hours and studies point to the present format as being the best way. And I agree…if you live in California. If everything is driven by the almighty dollar, and it is, then it would make sense to cater to the largest baseball markets, most of which are on our side of the country.
You can’t please everyone, period. It just stands to reason that if you can’t please everyone, it would be better for folks on the West Coast to miss the first three innings while they drive home from work than to have the most populated region to miss the final three innings because they are asleep!
Afterall, how many unforgettable images happened in the top of the second?
I can fondly remember running a radio wire through my jacket sleeve during Math class to stay on track with the 2:00 p.m. playoff start, then rushing home to see the bottom of the ninth. At times you really hated missing the first few frames but at least we saw the big hit, the big pitch, the big ending.
With salaries escalating to new heights, revenue concerns will always surround our game. Right now, baseball is enjoying its rebirth at the gate as attendance records are broken annually.
BUT, at some point the game is going to suffer. Interest at the Little League level has already dropped off. Television ratings continue to spiral downward. Just because baseball is experiencing a financial windfall and stadium’s across America are jammed, I’d argue that our sport is in danger of running kids toward the soccer fields. Major League Baseball has created countless programs to promote the game at younger levels, it is my belief that a child’s exposure to baseball stands to be MLB’s greatest gift toward interest in playing it. The NFL has gotten on board to a degree, moving their Sunday and Monday night contests up 30 minutes from the traditional 9:00 slot, even they recognize that “primetime” does not exist past midnight.
So Mr. Commissioner, please wake up because we can’t pull ourselves out of bed to fully appreciate some legendary feats! Figure it out somehow but don’t put us to sleep every October night in the sixth inning of a 1-1 game.
There has to be a better way…