by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

BOSTON — You want made-for-TV baseball? OK, you got it. Here is what it looks like: pitchers losing one-hoppers in the sun. Second basemen botching easy fly balls. Infielders bobbling grounders, batters flailing at pitches, major leaguers looking stupid, feeling embarrassed.

You like it so far? Oh. Hold it. Let’s pause for a commercial message.

“When it’s time to relax . . . one beer stands clear, (beer after beer) . .
. ” OK. We’re back. Welcome to the American League playoffs, which, as played in Game 2 Wednesday at Fenway Park, would fit just fine squeezed into a half-hour sitcom, maybe something starring Don Knotts, Charles Nelson Reilly, or Fred Flintstone.

The problem is, these games count.

“What happened?” someone asked Bobby Grich about the easy pop-up by Dwight Evans that dropped at his feet in the fifth inning, scoring what proved to be the game-winning run.

“What happened?” he answered. “I looked up, the sun was blinding, I flipped my glasses, but I just lost it. It was murder out there.”

“What happened?” someone asked pitcher Kirk McCaskill about the Wade Boggs chopper he couldn’t field, which led to a Boston run.

“I ran off the mound, looked up in the sun and lost it,” he said. “It was like that all day.”

“What happened?” someone asked Bob Boone of the game his team lost, 9-2, with three errors and a batch of mishaps, miscues and mistakes.

“Toughest visual game I ever played,” he said.

And he’s 38. What happened (R)

What happened? What happened? The question circled like a tape loop inside the Angels’ clubhouse, and down the hall among the Red Sox, who had tied this series at 1-1. What happened? Here is what happened. Thanks to network TV — which has things like ratings and soap operas to worry about — this affair started at 3:05 p.m.

A good time to get out of school. But a bad time to begin an important baseball game, especially in the cusp of autumn in New England. Half the field is shadow, half the field is blinding light. You try hitting or fielding in that.

“Bruce Hurst was throwing out of a camouflage of colors in center field,” Grich said. “How I got two hits off him I’ll never know. Ground balls were murder. And every time you looked up you were taking a chance.”

Grich sighed. His personal stats included an error, a botched pop-up (ruled a hit), a base-running mishap and a temper tantrum. And that was pretty average Wednesday.

“Look, I know we do it for TV,” he said. “But I’ve said it time and time again, I think we should play the post-season under the same conditions we play the other 162 games of the year. We start at 7:30 at night or at 1:30 in the afternoon. Now we’re playing at 3:00 or 3:30, the worst part of the day this time of year. I wish TV would take the best interests of the game into consideration.”

Now, there’s nothing worse than a team blaming the sun for a game it would have lost anyhow. But A) even the Red Sox complained and B) there’s no saying the outcome would have been the same with a different starting time. Shadows are a shame

How much effect could it have, you ask? Well, consider that the game was tied when Grich flubbed Evans’ easy fly in the fifth. Consider that half the runs McCaskill surrendered were unearned. Consider that it wasn’t just the Angels. The Red Sox had two errors — both ground balls, which Angels manager Gene Mauch labeled “terrible” to field in the late-afternoon sun.

True, not every glitch was related to time of day. But a few is too many. Athletes shouldn’t wait whole careers to lose games to shadows.

Why were they playing at 3:05 p.m.? Because the National League game was on TV at night. Why not at 1 p.m. — when the sunlight is more uniform? Because there’s not a large enough audience. Besides, that means preempting all the soap operas.

The next two games of this series will be in the funny 5:30 p.m. light of Anaheim Stadium. TV again. And why will the Astros play the Mets next Monday at 3:05 — on a major Jewish holiday, no less? Monday Night Football. Can’t preempt that. Might lose money.

It’s nice that millions get to see the games for free. But these championships are supposed to be the best against the best, memorable affairs.

There was little memorable about this 9-2 fiasco, except the sarcastic laughter.

The powers that be should either show an interest in baseball, or sell cotton candy along with the broadcast rights. Drama or a circus? What’s it gonna be?

It’s an issue that needs addressing, and I’m sure the networks and the baseball bigwigs — with their laughable tradition of “looking out for the sport” — will get around to discussing it very soon. Yes, indeed. Very soon.

As soon as they pause for station identification.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!