What time should first pitch be?
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Boston fans are upset that the Red Sox Division Series opener in Oakland started at 10 p.m. on the East Coast. George Steinbrenner is upset because the Yankees played a game at one in the afternoon.

This just goes to show you, there is NO good time to start a baseball game that pleases fans everywhere in a country with four time zones (not counting Alaska and Hawaii). Don't believe it? There are 24 hours in a day and there is a reason why a game shouldn't be played during every one of them.

8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time: Are you kidding? Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford could hit and pitch with hangovers, but they were Hall of Famers. You've got to give average players more time than this to recover from the previous night.

Barry Zito
Don't interrupt Barry while he's doing his morning meditation.
9 a.m. EDT: This is no good either, because it's 6 a.m. in Oakland, which is when Barry Zito does his transcendental meditation.

10 a.m. EDT: This doesn't work because it's 9 a.m. in Chicago and Cubs fans are busy lining up at the unemployment office for their checks.

11 a.m. EDT: Well, we're getting closer to a possible starting time, but it's still pretty early on the West Coast, and besides, Roger Clemens still hasn't finished putting on his war paint.

Noon, EDT: Fans are eating breakfast on the west coast, fans are at work in the East and Midwest and kids are in school everywhere in the country. They can't watch the games during class and no one manufactures transistor radios anymore so they can't listen to them during recess, either. Good lord -- when will columnists stop whining about the good old days and calling for day games so kids can watch them? Give it up guys. I remember day World Series games too, and they sucked.

1 p.m. EDT: This is considered a good starting time for the East Coast and Midwest, but Barry Bonds is still asleep on the West Coast. It is a very bad idea to wake up Barry early.

2 p.m. EDT: Barry is awake now but he likes to enjoy a long, leisurely breakfast, so don't even think about it.

3 p.m. EDT: Meanwhile, back on the East Coast, the shadows are now between the mound and home plate. That's too disruptive for hitting.

4 p.m. EDT: This is 1 p.m. on the West Coast, which is OK as long as you don't give a damn about fans who work or fans who go to school.

5 p.m. EDT: Fans in the East are now stuck in traffic.

6 p.m. EDT: People in the East are home, but now people in the Midwest are stuck in rush hour.

7 p.m. EDT: This is a great time for fans in the East and Midwest, but people in the mountain states are stuck in traffic and people on the West Coast are still trying to file their TPS reports in triplicate for Lumberger.

8 p.m. EDT: Now people on the West Coast are stuck in rush hour traffic.

9 p.m. EDT: It's 6 p.m. on the West Coast. People are still stuck in traffic.

10 p.m. EDT: It's 7 p.m. on the West Coast and everyone is finally home. Unfortunately, it is now way too late for the East Coast, where kids are going to bed.

11 p.m. EDT: It's now past Jack McKeon's bedtime, too.

Manny Ramirez
And don't interrupt Manny when's he got plans at night.
Midnight, EDT: It's now too late for baseball on both the East Coast AND the West Coast. But it is a perfect time for Honolulu.

1 a.m. EDT: No. This conflicts with Manny Ramirez's reservations at the Ritz Carlton hotel bar, though it is an excellent time for Armed Forces radio broadcasts in Guam.

2 a.m. EDT: This is really inconvenient for everyone everywhere, although it IS the last possible hour before David Wells becomes officially too drunk to pitch.

3 a.m. EDT: This also is very inconvenient for just about everyone, but this is the hour when Derek Jeter's average is highest with women in scoring position.

4 a.m. EDT: Get real. Not even fans who paint their faces and own every alternate jersey their team sells would watch a game at this hour.

5 a.m. EDT-6 a.m. EDT: Even if anyone would be willing to play or watch baseball games at these ridiculous hours, this entire time period is blocked on ESPN for commercials advertising Tom Emanski baseball videos.

7 a.m. EDT: It's finally prime time in Japan so this is a perfect time to begin a game for Hideki Matsui fans. Unfortunately, it's not quite so convenient for Hideki Matsui, who is still asleep.

Reviewing the timetable, as best as I can tell, there is but one single eight-minute window between 9:32 p.m. EDT and 9:40 p.m. EDT when everyone in every time zone in the continental United States is home, awake and able to conveniently watch the playoffs.

Unfortunately, that time slot is used to sing "God Bless America" and promote the Fox fall lineup.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





GAME TIME

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