- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Champions of Channel 39

Good thing Russ Hodges doesn't work for TBS. Because if he reacted in 2007 as he did in 1951 to the clinching of the National League flag, he could do no more than whisper that excuse me, I don't mean to wake you, but, uh, the Rockies won the pennant, the Rockies won the pennant. No, don't get up. It's not that big a deal. I'll tell you about it in the morning.

Report it any louder and he'd probably get sued for violating noise control statutes.

I watched Troy Tulowitzki throw out Eric Byrnes at first base to end an improbable sweep of the NLCS. Then I looked at the clock: 1:38 AM. The pennant had been won when a large chunk of the potential audience was asleep. And ignored.

What were they doing putting the National League Championship Series on so late? And what were they doing putting it on basic cable? Perhaps it is anachronistic and overly romantic of me to believe that if you can't be in prime time then you should be in daylight, but this was, at best, truly unfortunate, and at worst, a broadcasting farce.

Twenty-two minutes before two in the morning. The champions of the world's oldest professional baseball league were crowned at twenty-two minutes before two in the morning. Disgraceful.

Yes, I know the game was taking place in another time zone. May as well have been taking place on another continent. I'm sure Rockies fans in and around Denver didn't mind staying up kind of late to see their first-ever ticket for the World Series get punched at 11:38 PM MDT. We're all used to baseball games that go on and on (though this one was over in a relatively tidy 3:17). But this wasn't the Western Conference final. This wasn't a regional affair. This was the NATIONAL League title on the line. The whole nation deserved a look at the Rockies and their historic polishing off [1] of the Diamondbacks. Every baseball fan should have had easier and earlier access to this amazing story of an upstart that rose from mediocrity to 21 wins in 22 games.

Instead it's news to them. Somebody somewhere decided sticking half the LCS action on at 10:21 PM Eastern was a good idea. Somebody else decided it was OK to let the other series in the DH league take five-minute breaks between pitches. Probably the same somebody figured out the more off days, the better. The World Series between the solar-hot, soon-to-be-cooling-their-heels Rockies and the Indians or Red Sox won't start until a week from tomorrow. Baseball will recede even further from coast-to-coast consciousness until then.

Even a seven-game barnburner in the ALCS will proceed at a snail's pace. Game Four is tonight. Game Five is Thursday night. They built in an extra off-day for the travel between Cleveland and Cleveland. That's right, there's no game Wednesday. If it goes seven, there will be baseball on Saturday and Sunday. Then, eight days from now, there will be a World Series.

Will anybody outside the two towns directly involved remember it's on?

This is such a shame. The Rockies deserve better. The A.L. winner deserves better. Baseball fans deserve better. Baseball keeps taking bows for drawing record attendance in 2007 then hides its crown jewels. Every year they keep finding ways to obscure their product. For several Octobers they'd bury at least one LCS game in one market on Fox Sports Net or FX. Now they shift all the first-round and half the second-round action to TBS, home of Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. It's Channel 39 on my cable system. Even I kept forgetting when and where these games were on.

I wasn't the only one. TBS's ratings [2] fell from the LDS to the LCS. That's not my concern except that it represents how few baseball fans were watching. If it's because people weren't interested in Colorado vs. Arizona, then shame on them, it shouldn't matter who's playing because the two best teams left are playing. But if it's because somebody decided to start these games at an hour when millions of people were calling it a night on a channel way up the dial, then shame on the somebodies who made the decision.

Call me na├»ve, but baseball's playoffs shouldn't be tactical programming. They should be baseball's playoffs. They should be where everybody can see it and everybody can find it. They should be on so people who should care shouldn't have to ask the next morning, “Did they play last night? They did? Who won?”

The Rockies won. The Rockies won the pennant. The Rockies have won everything in sight lately. The Rockies have to be seen to be believed. Too bad they haven't been seen all that much.

P.S. On this date 38 years ago, the New York Mets completed stunning the baseball world by winning the 1969 World Series [3]. Time of miracle: 3:17 PM.