There Should be a Day Game Every Day

Not more, but consistent day games would be good for everyone.

It’s seemingly a more and more rare thing to have the short-term financial interests of MLB’s clubs and that of the general baseball fan align, but one change that does so and should be considered as part of the next collective bargaining agreement is a simple one that was also, in fact, the standard for over a hundred years in baseball: a day game every day.

From the fans’ perspective, it would offer unique opportunities for consuming the sport on a more regular basis. Fans that either work at night or have kids that they may not be willing to bring to a 7 pm start could attend a 1:00 game and still be home in time for dinner. With the workforce going more and more virtual, it’s great to have a game with teams you might not normally see (in the background, of course, if my boss is reading). For those of us still at offices, it’s also an opportunity to listen to a game on the radio as long as you were told you could listen at a reasonable volume.

The hurdles, of course, are mostly financial concerns. Notably, this was also the initial push back against having games at night. MLB believed that night games would not catch on, would affect their gate revenues, and quality of play.

In addition to the opportunity to provide more access to fans, MLB should strongly consider a national marketing push for the day game every day. There is significant precedent for sports leagues in the United States expanding their broadcast footprint on otherwise dead days and times that even a generation ago seemed unlikely to succeed. Monday night football was thought to be unworkable. The NBA has expanded its offerings on Christmas Day, often intentionally matching up the best teams in the league on a day when there is (typically) no NFL football on.

Baseball, meanwhile, has essentially the entire summer to itself out of the four major men’s sports leagues in North America, and only the quadrennial World Cup and Olympics to contend with in terms of major broadcast competition during the daytime.

To take advantage of that window, baseball could more regularly schedule teams that don’t receive as much national exposure. I hate to mention this in that it might encourage another round of blacked-out games, but MLB could negotiate another exclusive tv contract to broadcast the full slate of a game every day to offset concerns about revenue loss from the gate, or primetime tv packages (local stations would retain their right to broadcast in-area).

Baseball shouldn’t have to look too far for a proof of concept for this to work. The Cubs, after all, play the most day games of anyone due to a city ordinance prohibiting Friday night starts, and they hardly have an issue with attendance or marketability nationally. 

In 2019, there were 840 daytime contests (all times local). The Cubs played the most, with 68 day games, and Atlanta playing the fewest with 40. The average team played 56 day games.

Team League Division Total games Day games
Chicago Cubs NL Central 162 68
Detroit Tigers AL Central 162 67
Chicago White Sox AL Central 162 65
Toronto Blue Jays AL East 162 64
Tampa Bay Rays AL East 162 63
San Francisco Giants NL West 162 62
Washington Nationals NL East 162 62
Cincinnati Reds NL Central 160 61
Kansas City Royals AL Central 162 61
New York Yankees AL East 160 60
Cleveland Indians AL Central 162 60
Milwaukee Brewers NL Central 162 59
Minnesota Twins AL Central 162 59
Baltimore Orioles AL East 162 58
Oakland Athletics AL West 160 58
Pittsburgh Pirates NL Central 162 58
San Diego Padres NL West 162 56
Seattle Mariners AL West 160 56
Colorado Rockies NL West 162 55
Arizona Diamondbacks NL West 162 55
St. Louis Cardinals NL Central 160 55
Boston Red Sox AL East 160 52
New York Mets NL East 162 52
Philadelphia Phillies NL East 162 51
Texas Rangers AL West 162 49
Miami Marlins NL East 162 48
Los Angeles Angels AL West 160 42
Houston Astros AL West 160 42
Los Angeles Dodgers NL West 162 42
Atlanta Braves NL East 162 40

 

With 187 days to round out the MLB schedule annually, a day game each day would require at least two teams each of those dates, meaning 374 team day games, an average of about 12 games per team. 

Based on the 2019 season (the last season for which we have full “regular” season data), there were already 140 days of the season that contained day games. To have a day game each day would only require 47 additional “day game days.”

So the games are there. Of course, the logistical hurdles are immense, and the current pace of day games doesn’t account for the fact that all teams (save for the Sunday night teams) play day games on Sundays. The day games are currently concentrated on mostly “getaway” days, such as Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Would players trade fewer overall day games, spread more evenly throughout  in exchange for having some additional day games after night games? 

Schedule balancing wouldn’t be easy, and there would certainly be scenarios in which teams would have to play a day game after a late arrival the night before; however, fewer overall day games throughout the season spread more evenly between teams may be a worthy trade-off in terms of player health and rest. 

The necessity for teams to travel to or from opposite coasts is an immediate challenge for West coast teams in particular, with a 1 pm start in the East meaning a likely unworkable 10 am start on the West. Under a day game every day, the MLB schedule would have a disproportionate number of those games played in Eastern and Central time zones; that’s not as incongruous with the current system as you’d think. In 2019, only two Western-division teams (Oakland and San Francisco) ranked in the top half of day games played by local time. 

Perhaps this would entail more “wrap-around” series of four games that would begin on Friday and end on Mondays, to allow for more Monday day games. Then MLB would mostly be looking at Tuesdays to find one game that is workable in the schedule to make into a day game. That seems feasible.

A day game each day would provide MLB with another showcase for its product, on days and times when there’s little chance of counter-programming, especially for sports fans. The logistical challenges are real but not insurmountable. At a time when the league is trying so many on-field options to increase its fan base, reverting to an old approach to the game that could appease the die-hard fans waiting for games to start each day while providing unique opportunities for others who normally wouldn’t watch or attend at night is a common sense, low-risk approach to expanding the league’s footprint.

(Photo by Jared Vincent/flickr | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

Sean Roberts

Sean Roberts is a contributor to Pitcher List and writes mostly about the Brewers at Sausage Racing Form. His work has been featured on Baseball Prospectus, the Hardball Times, and October. He's still getting used to the DH in the national league.

  • Avatar DB says:

    This seems to me like a solution w/o a problem… Maybe if you’re an East-Coast manager that’s pissed about missing later games on the good coast because you can’t watch that late, or if your job is entirely watching baseball… like a fantasy columnist… that wants to have live baseball all day, every day, this makes sense, but otherwise, who cares?

    If you want to watch baseball all day every day, or simply want to be able to watch it whenever you want, just get MLB.tv.

    • Avatar Steve says:

      Even with MLB.tv they aren’t day games everyday during the week which was the whole point of this. More and more people working from home now too.

  • Avatar Rori says:

    Totally agree, I live in Europe and because of the time diffrence day games are the only games we watch over here..

    • Sean Roberts Sean Roberts says:

      Yes! I didn’t even consider the potential for international broadcasts. Seems like it’d be a fairly easy thing to do to expand reach. Great point.

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