The Yankees will try to sweep the Twins out of the American League Division Series tonight in New York and by the fifth inning most normal fans will be asleep. The other group, commonly known as baseball degenerates, will stay up and come to work the next morning trying to explain that although they may look it, they aren't hungover, just tired. But for every sane fan or fan under the age of twelve, they will have to wait to see if their hearts have been broken or if their dreams have come true over a soggy bowl of Cheerios and an ESPN update.
Why? Well, for the past two decades, the broadcasting companies, in this year's case TBS, have to a large degree dictated the pace and watchability of MLB playoff games. The same is true of most professional sports during playoff time but this point is particularly excruciating in what would euphemistically be called a "methodical" game such as baseball.
There is no clock in baseball and for anyone preparing to watch an American League playoff games on TBS you might as well go Christmas shopping beforehand because the game might end in December. The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants proved the only way a game will end in two and a half hours is if no-hitter or fourteen strike-out game is recorded and even then you could see Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum on the mound waiting for the umpire to signal that TBS was back from ad break. There is no reason an East Coast game should start past 8pm on a weeknight. It is bad for the fan base and bad for the sport. Frankly, no matter how exciting a game is, after midnight everything is boring to a ten year old fan especially when they have a report due on a Triceratops or Christopher Columbus the next morning. In fact, job productivity must be down amongst baseball fans due to the playoffs. What's your 2:30pm feeling? If you watched the playoffs it's looking like Mickey Rourke and feeling like Robert Downey Jr. circa 1992.
But, if you're not part of the solution than you're part of the problem so here are a few suggestions.
1. START THE GAME EARLIER: It won't kill your ratings TBS. You already settled that when you allowed Frank Caliendo to have his own show.
2. SHORTEN THE AD BREAKS: We get that the Nissan Juke can get you to a donut shop and back to th eoffice in time for a slow motion jump through the air. Consequently, and very paradoxically, we need more Conan blimp spots.
3. SWITCH THE ANNOUNCERS: Whoever the team is, have their everday announcer do the play-by-play. They know the team and unlike football where you have a week for a national play-by-play to get to know the players, you only have a day in baseball. The former Atlanta Braves announcer Ernie Johnson, a very good anchor and fine sports man, is calling the Twins and Yankees games, which is about as enjoyable as trying to eat two pieces of white bread in under a minute without water.
4. STOP THE GRAPHICS OVERLOAD: Showing where the pitch landed within the strike zone on every pitch is borderline okay. But, having a birds' eye view of what side of the plate it crosses is redundant. Most people can see what side it crossed and, really, it's just a graphic of a yellow line across a plate anyway. The whole thing looks like something out of the original TRON movie.
5. PUT THE FANS FIRST: This is a rule of thumb that should go for any broadcast company, not just TBS, which repeatedly misses pitches to squeeze in another Cialis commercial or schedules games in the ambivalent "prime time" zone. It's a multi-hour game, guys. The probability is that some of the innings will fall during prime time no matter when it starts and those innings might just be the late innings to an exciting game.