Friday, October 17, 2008

Rant: Non-Traveling Off Days

I started writing this little rant a few days ago, but never finished it. It seems a little less relevant now, but it's still a point I want to make. What is the story with the LCS days off between games 4 and 5, days when the teams aren't even traveling? Is it so that the Phillies players can check out Hollywood Boulevard, or the Rays can walk the Freedom Trail? I know it has something to do with television, and I won't try to deny that this is an unavoidable issue, but I can better understand the reason for this in the first round, when the goal is to stagger those games and not have four on the same day.

I'm willing to accept the fact that teams only need to use four starting pitchers in the post-season when they needed five while playing 162 games during a 181-day regular season. That's 19 days off, which--ignoring the fact that three of those are consecutive days over the all-star break--is approximately one every nine days. But, the extra day off in the middle of the LCS, in addition to the two travel days, makes for seven games played in ten days.

This gives the teams involved the option of using only three starting pitchers during the entire series, with only one pitcher in one game required to pitch on short rest. The Dodgers are the only team that chose to do this, with Derek Lowe, but the Red Sox certainly would have considered it had Josh Beckett been pitching as well as he was last year at this time. This results in the post-season being on a completely different playing field, figuratively speaking, than the regular season.

I hate to use this as an example, but Curt Schilling earned the right to be considered a post-season warrior, long before the bloody sock, when he pitched three games in the 2001 World Series. In doing so, he pitched both Games 4 and 7 on three days rest, and lasted at least 7 innings in all three starts. Even so, the Diamondbacks still had to use four starting pitchers in the series, with Brian Anderson going Game 3 and Miguel Batista getting the call in Game 5. When Schilling did this, it meant something. He went above and beyond his normal regular season workload and, despite the fact that his team only won two of these three games, and he was the winning pitcher in just one of them, he shared World Series MVP honors with Randy Johnson.

Of course, the existence of this extra off day has had no bearing on the current post-season, but I just feel that it cheapens the playoffs by potentially making even #4 starters obsolete. Teams can go through short stretches of the season without their 5th starter, and there are additional occasions when they're afforded the opportunity of skipping him, but no team can get by without their 4th starter taking his regular turn every time through the rotation. So, why would Major League Baseball allow this to be the case in the post-season? I am totally realistic about MLB's need to cater to the networks, based on the simple fact that television is one of its two means of presenting its product. However, this is one situation where the league needs to draw the line in order to, as trite as this sounds, preserve the integrity of the game's ultimate showcase.


  1. I can't agree more. You deserve a frickin' helmet sticker!

  2. Right on. I think this all a plot to stretch the season out so long that we can not only have a Mr. October, but a Mr. November.

  3. Thanks guys. Thankfully, they don't do this in the World Series, so the "ultimate showcase" I refer to is the post-season in general.

    I want to add that, while I said I can better understand this practice in the first round, I'm not saying that I advocate it. I still think the entire post-season should be set up so that, if you choose to skip your 4th starter, you end up having to pitch someone on short rest.

  4. I find the late game trend much more appalling. Can we at least get a game to end before midnight?