Around 2:30 this afternoon, I realized (from Twitter) that the Reds were playing a day game. For whatever reason, I’ve had a tough time keeping track of the team this year. That’s partly due to a busy work schedule and two little kids; partly due to a wife who watches 6 prime-time hours of reality TV every week; and an exciting NBA playoffs hasn’t helped.
But there’s also the schedule. Looking back, the Reds have been playing at a lot of odd hours. And that makes them tough to follow. More than any other sport, baseball is a sport of rhythms. Players have rhythms, but so do fans. When you can’t fall into a familiar game-watching rhythm, you (or at least I) care less, and put forth less of an effort to find the games when they are on.
This was always a huge problem for me when I lived in San Diego. I’d get into a rhythm following the Padres — listening or watching every game, reading the game notes in the paper, etc. Then they’d head out on a three-city, twelve-day road trip to Pittsburgh, Washington, and Atlanta, with every game starting either during the work day or mid-morning. There was no real post-game radio show, and while you could look at box scores and game stories, you’d have no real sense of why the club was winning or losing. Hot streaks would start and burn out, all out of sight.
This Reds season feels very similar. It started off in an odd way, with Opening Day against Milwaukee on a Thursday. At least that was at the semi-traditional 2:10 PM start. Then there was the odd Friday off day, and normal start times Saturday (7:10 PM) and Sunday (1:10 PM). After an off day on Monday, the Astros came to town for Tuesday and Wednesday night games, followed by a getaway Thursday 12:35 PM start.
Then came a West Coast trip, with a bizarre Phoenix weekend with different start times every day: 9:40 PM on Friday, 8:10 PM on Saturday, and 4:10 PM on Sunday. San Diego was next, with 10:05 PM games Monday and Tuesday night, followed by a simply goofy 6:35 PM start on Wednesday.
The following long homestand was actually fairly normal, apart from a Friday-Monday wraparound series against Pittsburgh. The night games were all at 7:10 PM, and the day games at 1:10 PM, with another Businessman’s Special at 12:35 PM.
The St. Louis was back to chaos. The Friday night game started on time at 8:05 PM, but only due to Tony LaRussa’s shenanigans. A rain delay seven minutes later lasted 2:10, and made for another game that was pretty much unwatchable. The rest of the series had unusual start times, suited to TV: 4:10 PM on Saturday and 8:05 PM Sunday. The trip to Milwaukee was simple: Two 8:10 PM night games, followed by a 1:10 PM on getaway day.
The return home had 7:10 PM starts on Friday and Saturday, and a Flying-Pig-Marathon-accommodating 4:10 PM start on Sunday. Monday’s game against Houston was rained out, then they played at 7:10 PM last night, and today was a 12:35 PM start — but on Wednesday, not Thursday.
It won’t get any better. Chicago brings 2:20 PM starts — but only on Friday and Sunday. Saturday, inexplicably, will be a 1:10 PM start. Then there’s Houston, who has 8:10 PM night games and 2:05 PM getaway games.
If you haven’t been counting, the Reds will have used 14 different start times by next Wednesday. In 38 games. In six weeks, the Reds have used five different times for Wednesday games; and four different start times for each of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday games. They’ve only started ten games at 7:10 PM – and only six of those were during the week (Monday-Thursday).
There are good reasons for all of it, I’m sure. But as a fan, it’s very hard to settle into the rhythm of the long season.