Home MLB'Weekly' Hit Ground Ball Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Schedules from a British perspective

Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Schedules from a British perspective

by Matt Smith

WhgbHlSqIt’s incredible when you think about it.  Teams in MLB play 162 games each, which should give ample opportunity to provide us with eight clear postseason clubs.  And yet every year, there are always several races that go right down to the wire. 

The teams go through their 162 game (sometimes more) marathon with the aim of ‘playing in October’.  The thing is, nowadays every team plays in October.

Even the Pittsburgh Pirates.

‘October’ is no longer interchangeable with the ‘postseason’. Not only does the regular season now extend past September, the World Series can extend into November as well.  That final point is something that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has often expressed reservations about and now he is going to do something about it.

The provisional 2011 regular season schedule has been released and finally MLB has listened to the players and shortened Spring Training.  Not by much, only a few days in fact, but the end result is that the season will be completed in September and the World Series will be played one week earlier.  The hunt for October will once again be everybody’s true primary target. 

In recent years, we’ve become accustomed to having a marquee season opener on Sunday night, courtesy of ESPN, and then watching most of the teams beginning their season on Monday.  Typically that’s meant baseball fans in Britain needing to take Monday and/or Tuesday off work to enjoy all the action. However, next year there will be five opening games on Thursday 31 March, followed by the rest of the teams on Friday 1 April.  From a North American point of view, I could imagine that being a bit of a nuisance: Thursday is an odd day for a big season opener.  From a British point of view, it could actually work out very nicely.  Book the Friday off and you can enjoy a long weekend to celebrate the new season beginning.

The one potential complication with this plan is that the regular season might have already begun by 31 March.  Provisionally the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks are planning to play two games in Taiwan sometime in late March (presumably early enough to give the teams a couple of days to recover before starting their Stateside season). 

A similar situation occurred in 2008 when the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox played two regular season games in Japan on 25-26 March.  While fans in Boston were getting up to watch the games at 6 a.m., and Oakland fans were rising for a 3 a.m. start, UK-based fans enjoyed the rare experience of not having to be up at all hours to watch them.  A 10 a.m. start was very hospitable if you weren’t working or stuck in school/college/university.  Taiwan time is just one hour out from Japan, so if the Giants and D-Backs do head that way then it should make for another set of mid-morning games for us.  That could make for a great start to the season.

Where things might not be so easy is the final day.  Yesterday was a classic example of the MLB season going right down to the wire and all of the games being played at a convenient time for us (Sunday evening).  In 2011, the season is scheduled to end on a Wednesday instead.  If all of the teams play day-games then it should be okay, but a host of night games will leave us stocking up on coffee and late-night snacks. 

If the action from yesterday was any indication, staying awake will not be a problem regardless of the hour.

World Series 2010

Part of the reason for the 2011 schedule change is that Bud Selig wants to run with his recent idea of starting the World Series on a Wednesday.  That’s worked quite well in terms of gaining extra attention for the Fall Classic, but the knock-on effect is a drawn-out postseason schedule to get from a Sunday regular season close to that Wednesday start, making it difficult to avoid the series inching into November if it goes the distance.

We’ll have to live with it this year.  Here is the World Series schedule with the British start times (and days) in brackets.

Gm1. Wednesday 27 October (00.57 on Thursday)
Gm2. Thursday 28 October (00.57 on Friday)
Gm3. Saturday 30 October (23.57 on Saturday)
Gm4. Sunday 31 October (00.20 on Monday)
Gm5. Monday 1 November (23.57 on Monday)
Gm6. Wednesday 3 November (23.57 on Wednesday)
Gm7. Thursday 4 November (23.37 on Thursday)

British Summer Time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday 31, whereas America stays in its daylight saving time for one extra week.  That means we can enjoy Game Three, which starts at 6.57 p.m. Eastern Time, then put the clock back and get an extra hour of sleep.  It also means that four of the games will start before midnight UK time (if 5, 6 and 7 are needed) and Games 4 and 5 will start on the same day (just).

And the best news is that BBC 5 Live Sports Extra will be broadcasting every game live.

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