The television schedule for the Rangers/Tigers ALCS series has hit the newswires this afternoon, and, curiously enough, it features a pair of weekday afternoon games, with Junior Circuit championship baseball apparently taking a back seat to the Senior Circuit and Simon Cowell's newest music star-creating vehicle. I suspect this will incite a new round of furious "Texas is getting disrespected!" protests from the Rangers' fan base (especially from those who have work/school commitments during the later afternoon hours, as is true for most people), but upon further examination, it's the Tigers' fan base that's really getting screwed over here.
Here is the schedule, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News which received the air-time information from FOX before the Rangers or Major League Baseball released the official schedule) and Sean Bass from The Ticket (who had the full list of game start times before anyone else, as far as I can tell):
|Series||Date||Network||Air Time (CT)||First Pitch (CT)|
|Game 1 DET @ TEX||Saturday, October 8||FOX||6:30||7:05|
|Game 2 DET @ TEX||Sunday, October 9||FOX||6:00||6:45|
|Game 3 TEX @ DET||Tuesday, October 11||FOX||6:30||7:05|
|Game 4 TEX @ DET||Wednesday, October 12||FOX||3:00||3:19|
|Game 5 TEX @ DET*||Thursday, October 13||FOX||3:00||3:19|
|Game 6 DET @ TEX*||Saturday, October 15||FOX||6:30||7:05|
|Game 7 DET @ TEX*||Sunday, October 16||FOX||7:00||7:05|
"So," you're thinking, "why are there two mid-afternoon games in the freaking ALCS? Why does Major League Baseball have it out for the Rangers?" While I love a great conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, there's one possible mundane explanation for this: FOX is running a two-part "The X-Factor" from 7:00-8:30 p.m. CDT on Wednesday and from 7:00-9:00 p.m. CDT on Thursday, and while the show's ratings evidently haven't lived up to the lofty expectations set before the show's premiere, it's still averaging right around a 7.0 rating (4.0 rating among adults 18-49), pulling in approximately 12 million viewers per airing, and more often than not ranking No. 1 in its time slot on a given night.
And while the television ratings for the full slate of LCS games last October did climb by a good seven percent from where they were in 2009, the problem is that they just don't bring in a closely comparable level of viewership. Last year's six-game NLCS (Phillies vs. Giants) on FOX averaged 9.05 million viewers, but that still falls well short of the kind of numbers that "The X-Factor" pulls down on a given night, and, like it or not, Phillies/Giants is a matchup that engenders more national attention than a Rangers/Tigers matchup. So, this could be about FOX's will and desire for maximum television ratings -- and profits -- trumping the desires of the commissioner's office.
This could, however, also be about baseball deciding to give the NLCS precedence over the ALCS despite not yet knowing what the NLCS matchup will be, as only one NLCS game is currently slated for the day (Game 1, on Sunday) while two ALCS games are being slated for weekday afternoons. Some further research indicates that LCS games haven't overlapped in years past, so it can probably be argued that the Rangers/Tigers actually are getting the short end of the stick from baseball ... although, again, it's certainly possible that FOX's other network commitments ended up playing into the decision.
My own baseless theory: Baseball knew that it would have to schedule two of its LCS games in the afternoons on Wednesday and Thursday (since both series are being played on those days), and decided to go ahead and relegate the Rangers/Tigers to those spots rather than fight FOX tooth and nail to get them to move "The X-Factor" for a lower-rated program. Under this scenario, both parties are to blame for the unhappiness of Detroit and Texas fans.