MLB Sets 2008 Posteason Schedule

By Barry M. Bloom
Updated: September 17, 2008

NEW YORK — The World Series is scheduled to begin on a Wednesday again this year, on Oct. 22, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday. If it goes the full seven games, it would end on Thursday, Oct. 30.

It will be the second year the Series will start on a Wednesday rather than on a Saturday, as it did from 1985-2006, as MLB looks to capitalize on higher midweek television viewership and have an increased ability to handle the effects of weather-related postponements, such as those that affected the 2006 postseason.

Four days are built into the postseason schedule as a contingency for adverse weather, adopted last year as part of the new television contract signed between MLB and FOX, which also spreads out the postseason slate for the first two rounds.

“Starting the World Series in the middle of the week, when television viewership is historically higher, provides more fans with the opportunity to watch the games,” Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer, said last year when the changes were announced. “The additional off days throughout the postseason give us greater flexibility to facilitate travel and protect against poor weather.”

Three of the four best-of-five Division Series will start on Wednesday, Oct. 1, with the second American League Division Series starting on Thursday, Oct. 2. And again there will be a scheduled travel day between Games 4 and 5, if necessary.

Thus, the two AL first-round sets could end on Wednesday, Oct. 8, with both the NL series having the possibility of concluding on Tuesday, Oct. 7. None of the four first-round series went the distance last October. Three of the four went the minimum.

The National League Championship Series is slated to begin on Thursday, Oct. 9, and end — if it goes to a full seven games — on Saturday, Oct. 18. The American League Championship Series begins on Friday, Oct. 10, and could stretch as far as Sunday, Oct. 19. If both series go the distance, the NL team would have three days off before the start of the World Series, while the AL team would have two (barring rainouts).

However, if an LCS were to end in a four-game sweep, an AL team could have as many as seven days off before the beginning of the World Series, while an NL team could sit for as many as eight days. That’s exactly what happened last year to the NL-champion Rockies, who swept the Diamondbacks in an NLCS that ended on Oct. 15. Meanwhile, the eventual World Series-winning Red Sox fell behind, 3-1, in the ALCS and needed seven games to vanquish the Indians in a series that ended on Oct. 21.

The World Series began in Fenway Park on Oct. 24, meaning the Rockies, working out in Denver through sleet and snow, had eight off days before playing again. They were swept by Boston, which won its second World Series in four years.

In both Championship Series, there’s again an off day between Games 4 and 5 in the same city just in case there’s inclement weather. That change was a reaction to what happened in the 2006 Mets-Cardinals NLCS, when both travel days were lost because of rain.

Game 1 was postponed for a day in New York, having a ripple effect on the second game of the series and wiping out the first travel day. When Game 4 in St. Louis was also washed out, there was no travel day prior to the climatic Game 6 at Shea Stadium.

Another change the past two postseasons should be credited to Commissioner Bud Selig.

Already, the AL representative has the home-field advantage in the World Series by virtue of its 4-3, 15-inning win in the All-Star Game this past July 15 at Yankee Stadium. The World Series beginning in the AL city means the NLCS must start first, thereby locking the two NL Division Series into starting on the first day of the playoffs.

That means the ALDS will be split, with one starting on the first day of the postseason, with the other starting the next day. Beginning last year, the Commissioner awarded the team with the best record in the All-Star Game-winning league the opportunity to choose whether it wants to play the eight-day ALDS (opening on Wednesday, Oct. 1 this year), or a seven-day ALDS (beginning on Thursday, Oct. 2).

The AL club that finishes the regular season with the best record must make its selection of a playoff starting date within an hour after completing either the game that determines which team will finish with the best regular-season record or the game that determines the matchups in the Division Series — whichever comes later.

Last year, the pairings weren’t determined until the next to the final day of the season, when Boston won and Cleveland lost, giving the Red Sox the choice. Boston chose the earlier start to spread out their starting pitching, although it took them only three games to defeat the Angels.

The team with the best record in each league plays the Wild Card winner in the first round, unless those two teams are in the same division. In that case, the team with the best record plays the division winner with the worst record, and the division winner with the second-best record plays the Wild Card.

If the Wild Card winner comes out of either of the other two divisions, the team with the best record has home-field advantage against the Wild Card, and the team with the second-best division record hosts the final division winner.