Let’s tap the brakes on the outrage, Rangers fans.
The social media response to the Rangers’ first two ALDS games starting in the afternoon can be summed up into: “Are you kidding me?”
Throw in a couple colorful adjectives and you get the gist.
Here are a few “clean” reactions from Twitter:
The Rangers will host Tuesday’s AL wild card winner between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles at Globe Life Park. Game 1 is at 3:38 p.m. Thursday and Game 2 is at 12:08 p.m. Friday. Game 3, in the opponent’s park, is set for 6:38 p.m. Sunday.
We’ll get back to that Sunday prime time game in a second.
Many are upset at the early starts for practical reasons, such as being stuck at work while their team is in a playoff game. Others, understandably, are annoyed that they have just three days warning to make arrangements to attend, including finding baby sitters, asking off work, or having enough time to concoct a foolproof illness to use with their boss.
However, most are mainly peeved because they feel as though Major League Baseball isn’t giving the Rangers, the American League’s top team, any respect.
Their thinking, according to hundreds, if not thousands, of Twitter and Facebook comments, is that the Rangers deserve to play in prime time.
There are two problems with that.
First, the postseason schedule is devised by the television networks and the league to maximize their ratings. Although Dallas-Fort Worth (and Arlington!) ranks as the fifth-largest TV market, the Red Sox and Cubs have fan bases with reach throughout the country. Not only is Boston, for instance, itself the No. 8 market, but Hartford and New Haven, Conn., are 30th and Providence, Rhode Island, is 52nd. So while the Rangers rule North Texas and parts of Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas, the reach of the Red Sox throughout the Northeast can’t be discounted.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs also muck up the schedule works. They’re the Nos. 2 and 3 TV markets. Plus, both have fans all over the country, especially the Cubs. I know, that annoys me as much as anybody, but this isn’t about me.
On Friday, when all four division series are in action, it’s obvious why the Rangers were stuck with the noon start.
For instance, if they had made the Dodgers at Nationals NLDS Game 1 the early game in the Eastern time zone, then you’re either starting it at 11 a.m. or creating major overlap between the other games, including the Red Sox at Indians and the Rangers’ Game 2. Their decision to put the Cubs’ Game 1 in prime time (a very late 8:15 p.m. start) was more obvious than whether umpire Joe West enjoys a good meal. Add the fact that their opponent will be either the Mets or Giants and it could be ratings gold. The 2015 NLCS featuring the Mets sweeping the Cubs included four night games. Three of the six ALCS games between the Royals and Blue Jays were afternoon starts. Keep in mind the huge Canadian following of the Blue Jays doesn’t affect TBS’s ratings in the United States. Their games are typically broadcast in Canada on Sportsnet, a Canuck version of ESPN.
But even beyond all the TV ratings nitty gritty, the start-time anger seems out unwarranted for another reason.
It’s the first two games. Sunday’s Game 3, as mentioned before, is in prime time. Perhaps Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will also be at night. Conversely, the Indians at Red Sox Game 3, is scheduled for 3:08 p.m. during all those football games.
True, a year ago four of the five Rangers-Blue Jays’ ALDS games started early. The lone night game was Game 3 in Arlington.
Also, start times later in the ALDS are often dictated by which series are still alive. If the Indians-Red Sox series is a sweep, the chances of a night game for the Rangers in Game 4 go up.
One more thing, the deeper the Rangers go, the later they’ll play. A Red Sox-Rangers ALCS would be prime time viewing. But also remember this: there is no shortage of Cubs love and if they keep winning they’ll likely be the prime time game whether they’re playing the Dodgers or the YMCA.