MLB tweaks schedule on final day of season for playoff scramble
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Fans at Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium and Safeco Field might need to bring a few extra screens to the ballpark on the final day of the season.
Major League Baseball is tweaking this year’s schedule, hoping to create a huge playoff scramble by starting all 15 games on Oct. 4 at virtually the same time.
“Could add some drama,” Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams said before Friday’s exhibition against Houston.
Might make for tough choices, too.
If the Mariners hold a one-game lead over Toronto for the second AL wild-card spot, do they start Felix Hernandez at home vs. Oakland or hold him for the playoff opener? They won’t be able to wait to see how the Blue Jays do at Tampa Bay.
Another result — split attention spans. Try watching the field, the scoreboard, a smartphone and another mobile device, all at once.
“It might build the suspense,” Houston catcher Jason Castro said.
MLB Chief Operating Officer Tony Petitti said every game will begin shortly after 3 p.m. EDT. The original schedule announced in January had games in Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia starting about a half-hour later than the rest.
The plan, the latest innovation under new Commissioner Rob Manfred, was spurred by the last-day chase in 2011 when four teams dueled for two wild-card spots. Tampa Bay and St. Louis got in, Boston and Atlanta were eliminated.
“The idea originally came from remembering that great night that we had on a Wednesday … all those games in progress at the same time, coming down to a great dramatic finish,” Petitti said.
“How do we capture that and take advantage of that situation when we get it? So the ideas was, hey, we want all of our games to happen at the same time, so nobody’s in a position where a game that might have meant something doesn’t because of the way we sequenced the games.”
This year’s season ends on a Sunday, if all the races are settled. Last year, there was the possibility of three tiebreakers going into the last day — none were needed.
“We went to the clubs and said, hey, let’s try this this year and then hopefully we’ll get lucky with many tight finishes,” Petitti said. “When you look it with the addition of wild cards, we can hope that something in that last day will mean something and we want to make sure that we’re not taking away from the excitement. The schedule gives us a chance to maximize it.”
The Los Angeles Times initially reported the move.
Turner has the rights to the time slot. Petitti said there has been talk about whether teams out of the race can shift game times, but there’s been no decision.
Washington ran away with the NL East last season, and is a heavy favorite this year. Still, no telling if that last game against the New York Mets at Citi Field might mean something.
“You’ve got wild-card scenarios, you’ve got a lot of teams that are vying for the same thing. So that potentially could get some excitement in that regard,” Williams said.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.