October 13, 2006

Fox is Crafty

Filed under: baseball — ted @ 3:12 pm

You can’t read the enlightening, unreasonably fascinating articles on Baseball Prospectus unless you pay for a subscription — and you probably wouldn’t want to, unless you’re nuts about both baseball and the quest to interpret it through statistics. But this editorial intervention from staff writer Joe Sheehan, responding to baseball’s decision to move today’s Tigers-A’s game to 4:30 this afternoon, so that the Mets can play during primetime, is worth reading, if even you’re not a baseball fanactic.

So I’m going to paste it  below. Enjoy!

As I’m sure you know, today’s ALCS Game Three between the A’s and Tigers in Detroit has been rescheduled for 4:30 or so, from its original 8:00 or so.

I don’t have a problem with this decision, for the most part. Games that run consecutively are always better than games that run concurrently, so this meets that standard. I would have flipped the two, because the Cardinals and the Mets have to travel tonight to play tomorrow and should get the earlier start, but that doesn’t seem to have been a concern.

I do have a problem with the stated rationale, which is just untrue. From the Associated Press:

Major League Baseball said Thursday that concerns about the weather Friday night in Detroit prompted the switch from the original start time of 8:19 p.m.

That, my friends, is most certainly not the case. The A’s and Tigers aren’t playing at 4:30 because it’s cold and, swear to God, snowy, in Detroit. They’re playing at 4:30 because Fox wants to show the New York team in prime time. That is the sole reason for the time change; the weather in Detroit provides a nice snowscreen, but MLB hasn’t been in the habit of moving up game times in the postseason for weather reasons in my lifetime, and they’re not starting now. If it hadn’t rained in New York Wednesday night, the A’s and Tigers would be playing a night game. Are we to believe that we’re going to see a series of earlier starts the rest of the month, that games will be rescheduled outside of prime time so that they can be played in weather 10-15 degrees warmer? Does anyone actually believe that’s the case, 19 years after the last World Series day game?

The decision isn’t the problem. The problem is not telling the truth, which is blatantly obvious. Just come out and say that Fox wants to show the Mets and Cardinals at 8 p.m. It makes sense, it’s consistent with everything Fox has done for years, and it doesn’t insult my intelligence.

If MLB is wondering why a segment of the baseball-loving public doesn’t really trust them, it’s because of stuff like this. We know that Fox runs the game in October, and the idea that MLB is setting game times is laughable. Fox is responsible for 2-0 games that run nearly three hours and 20 minutes of useless pregame content and production values that grate the nerves of anyone who actually might want to watch some playoff baseball. Fox also puts lots and lots of money into the game in return for the right to do these things. It’s a tradeoff.

So instead of making up stuff about weather, just come out and tell the truth: the A’s and Tigers are playing early because Fox wants it that way. You’ll lose something you don’t have – the illusion of control – and you’ll gain a lot of respect among people who are just tired of being told that black is chartreuse, or green, or actually a camel.

One of the more disturbing trends in society is the idea that large organizations can say whatever they want, truthful or no, and have it be reported as fact. The “fact” being that it was said, of course, with no examination of its veracity. When it happens in sports, no one really gets hurt. Unfortunately, it happens elsewhere, every day, in life or death matters affecting millions of people. I’m ranting about this one statement in part because it’s illustrative of the larger problem, that lying to the public has become an accepted part of our society. It’s only through examining everything we hear and read – from the rationale behind a rainout to the reasons for a war – that we have any chance of getting to the truth.


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