We get it. Start times of playoff games in every major sport are based on a wide array of factors, all presumably designed by sports leagues to attract the most eyeballs possible.
There are going to be drawbacks to any and every choice.
We've seen NBA series stretch over a period of two weeks or more, with huge lags between games designed to cram as many contests as possible onto the weekend and select weeknights.
Start a West Coast baseball at 5 pm local time and you mess with the outcome of the game, the late-afternoon shadows all but ensuring a nightmarish day for hitters struggling with visibility. Start that same game two hours later and you'll ensure that many East Coast viewers fall asleep by the 4th inning.
But this? This is ridiculous.
You don't take one West Coast-based team and another that's spent the better part of a week out West, fly them back cross-country, and have them play a game at Noon ET less than two days later. Ever shown up really early to a major league game? The players are taking batting practice two and a half hours before first pitch. They're ordered to arrive at the ballpark well before that, in uniform, ready for pre-game prep. ESPN.com's Amy Nelson Tweeted this morning that Rocco Baldelli was out on the field before today's Angels-Red Sox game, doing lateral exercise to get into game shape. That was at 9:38 am ET - or 6:38 am PT on Baldelli's internal clock, given what we know about jet lag and time zone adjustments, even for players who've used charter flights.
There are any number of reasons MLB might decide to start today's Halos-Sox game just after Noon. Baseball probably feared head-to-head competition with the NFL's 1 pm games (not to mention its 4 pm games). And ummm...well, no other good reason comes to mind.
Meanwhile, MLB has drastically increased the likelihood that we'll see a bunch of sluggish players out there, going through the motions on the basepaths, hitters struggling to find their timing, pitchers laboring and failing to control their off-speed offerings. As an added bonus, West Coast viewers will need to hoist themselves out of bed and stare bleary-eyed at the screen as the first pitch sails in. You can bet plenty of casual fans who may have been psyched about a possible Angels sweep will sleep right through much of the game.
With Yankees-Twins at 7 pm and Phillies-Rockies at 10 pm, MLB could've easily scheduled the Angels-Red Sox game for 4 pm and given us a phenomenal channel-changing opportunity. Plenty of viewers would've toggled between NFL and MLB playoffs and been gleeful for the chance. Instead we might see Vladimir Guerrero fall down on his way to first after realizing, too late, that he put his pants on backwards when he got up with the cows this morning.
In fact, there's only one positive development to come out of this whole scheduling mess: A chance for Terry Francona to flex his underrated wit:
"We'll show up (and) do what we always do on early games," Francona said, "have 12 pieces of bacon, a Red Bull and go get 'em."