These are referred to as day games in the States, for the obvious reason that they take place during the day rather than at night. Of course, due to the time difference, they are played during the evening for us in the UK, so I refer to them as ‘early’ games.
I started the ‘early game guide’ because I wanted to plan ahead for the evenings when I could catch a good game and I figured that if I found it useful, other fans in the UK would to.
Thankfully I’ve received lots of comments over the past few years showing that to be true.
With that in mind, I’ve gone through my records for the 2011 season to discover more about the games that we were able to enjoy live at a convenient time in the UK. In the first of two articles, I explain my ‘early’ game definition and look at the teams that played in the most during the 2011 season.
Explaining the data
I’ve focused on games scheduled for the working week (Monday to Friday inclusive) on the basis that these are the days on which early games matter most for the majority of people. Late night Saturday games are easier to follow live due to being in the middle of the weekend (i.e. the very early hours of Sunday morning) and you can pretty much take it as read that your team will be playing an early game on Sunday so long as they are not playing in the ESPN Sunday Night Game.
My figures are based on what I would call scheduled early games. They are the games that were due to be played before midnight UK time when I checked the fixture list on Monday morning. Games rearranged at short notice during the week haven’t been included for two reasons: 1) I can’t be sure I always added them to the list and I wanted the data to be consistent, 2) a late rearranged fixture isn’t so useful because by their nature they don’t help you plan for the week’s viewing/listening.
The final thing to note is the obvious point that this is just one year’s worth of data. Some home teams are more inclined to play early games, for various reasons, and the way the Interleague schedule changes every year means that a team’s total may go up or down by a few games year-on-year as a result.
The Yankees, for example, played a very rare series at Wrigley against the Cubs in 2011, giving New York an added early game on a Friday that they probably wouldn’t have in a typical year. However, this should be a good general guide.
The top ‘early’ teams in 2011
- Chicago Cubs – 36 early games
- Tampa Bay Rays – 32 games
- Detroit Tigers – 27 games
- Oakland A’s – 26 games
- San Diego Padres – 25 games
There is no surprise as to the identity of the top early team. The Chicago Cubs play more games under daylight than any other team, largely due to restrictions on the number of night games that they are allowed to stage at Wrigley Field.
Throughout the 2011 season, there were only five weeks in which the Cubs didn’t play at least one early game and one of those was the final shortened week of the season when they played a three-game series in San Diego.
The Cubs are particularly generous towards fans in the UK who want to watch a live game on Friday evening. Of the 23 early games played on a Friday in 2011, 13 involved the Cubs. Tuning into Len Kasper and Bob Brenly on the WGN Cubs broadcast for a 19.20 BST first pitch is always a treat.
Second on the list are the Tampa Bay Rays and their TV commentators, Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson, are also a lot of fun to listen to. They always give a mention to baseball fans in Europe when one of their games is being broadcast on ESPN America. On one occasion this season, they started joking about how the Rays could become “the UK’s team” and pondered making an offseason trip to spread the word. “This is going to be big!”, Staats joked.
They initially made the rookie mistake of using ‘the UK’ and ‘England’ interchangeably, an error that was subsequently pointed out to them by fans from Scotland and Northern Ireland. As they had been discussing dressing up as Beefeaters earlier in the broadcast (honest), the mention of Scotland prompted Brian Anderson to offer the following statement: “I’m going to tell you something right now. The kilt: that’s where it’s at’.
Questionable fashion advice aside, you can’t go wrong with Staats and Anderson. Add the Rays’ high number of early games to their underdog status and exciting young team and Tampa Bay would have to be a prime contender for any British newcomer trying to pick a team to support.
The Detroit Tigers also merit a strong mention as they have consistently put out a good team over the past few years and give fans plenty of opportunities to follow their games live in the British evening.
The A’s and Padres may be on the west coast, but the extra three hours of time difference doesn’t stop their fans from enjoying a good number of early games at a convenient time either.
Part Two …
Later in the week, we’ll take a look at the teams at the bottom of the list and delve deeper into how the early games fell in 2011 over the days, weeks and months of the year.