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MLB Drops the Ball on Start Times

Philadelphia Phillies fans cheer during introductions prior to the start of Game 1 of the National League division baseball series against the Colorado Rockies, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)Just because it’s a 2:37 first pitch doesn’t mean you still cant have a good time.  Oh, maybe you’ll have to take off from work, miss a day’s pay, and spend $100, or more, on a ticket.  But you’ll still have fun.

Lest we forget that last year, when the Phillies faced the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park, the start time for the opening game was 3 p.m.  Game 2, as it turned out, began at a much more manageable six o’clock.  How is that possible?  How can the Phillies/Brewers series, pitting two teams who had rarely sniffed the postseason prior to 2008, be given a 6 p.m. time slot? Must have been a mistake.

Bring it back to the present, and here’s what we have: back-to-back games, with the last two National League Champions, starting before the kids get out of school.  Once was an insult to the reigning World Series Champions and their fans, who for 82 games packed Citizens Bank Park to 102.2 percent of capacity. Twice is more like a punch in the mouth for fans that sold out 73 games this year, including 42 straight at one point.

MLB considers nothing but money, and it’s never more evident than now.  Philadelphia has put itself on the map as one of the premier baseball towns in the U.S. and Denver, while proving to be a pigskin town, still ranked 11th in all of baseball in attendance.  Still, that wasn’t enough to allow both teams to play in the crisp, nighttime air in South Philly.  No, MLB saves that for Denver.

They would rather save the later starts for when the temperatures barely creep above the freezing point in the Rocky Mountains.  They, whomever they might be, have conjured up a sked that says “Phillies at Rockies, 9:37 p.m. est.  Be thankful for that, because on a Saturday night, you and the kids can stay up late and watch as the clock approaches, and likely passes, midnight.  MLB decided to abhor Philadelphians once again for Sunday’s night game out in Colorado.  Start time: 10 p.m. Eastern.

This is not a cry for Major League Baseball to change it’s policy on everything Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox. They will continue to play dumb and give the advantage to larger television markets.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?  Playing to the TV Markets?

It’s hard to argue that the Yankees should not be on at, or close to, prime time.  But let’s be equal here.  In a game that prides itself on revenue sharing – which is supposed to allow for equality amongst its franchises – has certainly dropped the ball.

How about one of the two games being set near prime time here in Philly so that countless people were not burdened with having to take off from work, or yank their kids from class (not that they would care), or sell their tickets because the other two options were not options at all?

For a city that is currently reeling from a budget crisis, Phillies fans have found a way to buy the tickets, merchandise, beer, soda, hot dogs, and parking that comes along with a night out at the park.  This town has shown its undying support for their team, and at the same time, for the entire game of baseball. Would it have been too much to ask for the same in return from a game that so many people value, and enjoy to the fullest on a daily basis? Have you seen big, empty seats behind home plate for any of the Phillies games this season? Not a chance; but at the new Yankee Stadium, it serves as a beautiful backdrop for TBS or FOX to show during one of their telecasts.

If there happens to be a Game 5, does 2 a.m work for you?

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