I hate baseball conspiracy theories. I don’t think ESPN is out to get the Yankees with their pro-Red Sox bias. I don’t think we should lambaste other teams’ supposedly using the Yankees’ (and other rich teams’) dollars to build competitors. The baseball economics and the state of the sports media aren’t perfect, but they are what they are.
I do however know about the vagaries of television ratings. Just like I know that RAB draws more visitors for night games than for days, I know that the YES Network pulls in a higher rating for weekday night games than it does for mid-week day games. And I can guess that FSN Pittsburgh enjoys much better numbers for Yankee-Pirate games at night than it would during the day.
But at what point do the Yankees get the benefit of scheduling? Last night, the Yankees were set to play the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. Today, the Yankees are set to play the Mets at 2:05 p.m. While the Mets game is a make-up game, MLB had enough time to reschedule the Pirates game so that the Yanks could get in the game without getting back to New York in the wee hours of the evening. But alas they did not.
Instead, the Yanks and Pirates took the field at 7:05 p.m. knowing full well that their game probably wouldn’t make it into the books. The Yanks knocked out four extra-base hits to start the game, and only an odd base-running decision by Alex Rodriguez and a bad swing by Jason Giambi averted a 4-0 start for the Bombers. While Mike Mussina struggled in the first, he held the Pirates to just one run. An inning and a half later, the rains came, and nearly two and a half hours late — three since the scheduled start of the game — officials finally called the game.
So the Yankees are right now on their way back to New York, later than they would have been had the rains stayed away. They didn’t get in a game that should have been played in the afternoon, but they did burn one of their most effective starting pitchers this season.
I know and understand that the Yankees and their popularity mean a lot to baseball both in terms of good will and dollar signs. But this is a team that needs to get its games in as well, and they deserve the same courtesies of scheduling that other teams enjoy. There’s no reason other than ratings why MLB didn’t shift this game to a 4:05 p.m. start once it become clear that the Yanks had to be back in New York for a Friday afternoon affair, and the team paid the price.
Oh, well. We’ll get ’em in July.