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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Fan Concern Set Aside When it Comes to Red Sox, Bruins' Schedules

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Thursday's day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park seems destined to be as soggy an affair as last April's game against the Oakland A's. AP Photo

In a land of bobbleheads and horses, Boston sports fans just can’t catch a break.

Truth be told, it’s a beautiful day for baseball in the Hub, so much so that the Red Sox deemed the rain-soaked Fens the perfect place to play two on Thursday, following the postponement of Wednesday night’s game against the Devil Rays, much to the dismay of the Tampa players. The Rays are only 3-7 in their last 10 games, mired in last place in the AL East at 11-16, 4 ˝ games behind the front-running Yankees. Seeing as the season is all of a month old, there was the option of playing the game later in the season as part of a day/night doubleheader or on Sept. 22, when both teams have an off-day prior to an already scheduled three-game series at Fenway Park. Instead, the Red Sox decided Thursday – with a 90 percent chance of showers throughout the day – was the ideal time to try and force a pair into the schedule.

The Sox didn’t like the September option because it took away their last off-day of the season. Have fun in the rain, kids.

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According to Section C of the Collective Bargaining Agreement “teams may schedule split doubleheaders to make up postponements, so long as the clubs involved do not have more than four such doubleheaders already on the schedule, if ticket sales for the game at the time of postponement exceed … the number of comparable tickets available to be exchanged by the Club for the balance of the championship season, and both the postponed and rescheduled game occur in the last regularly scheduled series.

“That section of the CBA also notes that "the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs shall have the right to reschedule a postponed game as a split doubleheader to be played in, respectively, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, even if the criteria set out … above are not met. Scheduling a postponed game as part of a conventional doubleheader will not be considered a practical alternative."

Let me get this straight, a natural doubleheader was considered a “practical alternative” in 1982, when I specifically recall attending a twinbill between the Texas Rangers and Red Sox, but not in 2014 after $285 million in renovations have improved traffic flow in and around the ballpark? Folly. In fact, it was the Red Sox franchise that revived the forgotten day-night doubleheader in 1989, with a pair of separate admission games against the Minnesota Twins on June 24, 1989. It went over just as well then.

“Call it a Rocket tax, a Wade tariff, or a Dwight, Geddy, or Marty assessment, a reflection of the Boston Red Sox’ need to bring the most bucks possible to pay the hefty salaries of Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and the rest of New England’s boys of summer,” the Providence Journal’s Art Turgeron wrote, according to the book, “Doubleheaders, a Major League History,” by Charlie Bevis “The popularity of day-night doubleheaders, never high to begin with, has all but disappeared in recent years. Indeed, the Bosox, who will be staging their 156th since 1971, are the only team in the major leagues to have used them since 1973.”

Ironically, Bevis wrote that the Twins weren’t exactly happy with that development either. The Minnesota players only approved the idea after the Red Sox promised to make a $20,000 donation to a charity of their choice.

Maybe Larry Lucchino should start cutting a check to Rays player representative Ben Zobrist?

“We were told that in the Basic Agreement there is a grey area for teams like Boston and Chicago (Cubs) to basically exercise their own right to do what they want to do,” Zobrist told the Tampa Tribune. “So that's what they did. Major League Baseball told us it was (the Red Sox) decision and they chose to do a doubleheader (today).

“We were talking to the union about it, and they let us know pretty much that it wasn't going to fly, that Boston was going to do what they wanted to do. So it was kinda like I knew it was probable MLB was going to side with Boston and let them do what they wanted to do instead of taking control themselves. So it was kind of the expected outcome at the end after what I heard (about the CBA provision).”

The gate receipt is one thing, but if you believe the conspiracy theories, the Red Sox shoehorned the matinee in because they have less of an idea of what to do with 20,000 Dustin Pedroia bobbleheads, set to be distributed to fans Wednesday night, than they once did with Willie McGee.

Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy told ESPN Boston that the need to store the collectibles, to be given out at Thursday’s 1 p.m. game, was hardly the case. "I can assure you the bobbleheads had nothing to do with our decision to play two tomorrow," Kennedy wrote in an e-mail. "We have a responsibility to play 81 home games each season, and two games tomorrow gives us the best chance. Of course, you never know what tomorrow will bring weather-wise, but that's baseball in New England."

Well, shucks. At least they all get to keep their September tee times.

As if that weren’t enough scheduling madness to make a ticket-holder pull out his or her hair, the NHL was oh, so kind to finally release the schedule for the second round of the NHL playoffs between the Bruins and Canadiens in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Bruins fans have held tickets to these games for five days, only to be held hostage by the league – and mainly, NBC – in the decision-making process.

As rumored, Game 2 will indeed be Saturday at 12:30 p.m. If there’s an overtime that runs past 4 p.m., coverage will shift to NBC Sports Network so as to not interfere with the network’s two-hour pregame for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby. Yes, really.

Saturday’s game seemed a shoe-in for a prime-time, Hockey Night in Canada audience, but with the millions that NBC is paying the NHL broadcast its product, those inflatable tube men used for advertising purposes now seem to have a more viable spine than Gary Bettman. Heaven knows NBC can’t broadcast the game following the horse race. A two-hour “Dateline NBC” is on at 8 p.m. Nobody pre-empts Lester Holt.

The network could have the game on in prime time over on NBC Sports Network, where the Kings (Oh, dear God, Joe….) and the Ducks will play Game 1 of their series, but Bruins-Canadiens plays as a much-nicer lead into its Kentucky Derby coverage. Come for the game; stick around for hats and mint juleps. The yard? The kids swimming lessons? The flower show you promised your significant other you take him or her to in the afternoon in exchange for you being able to go to the game? $#@& it.

Ratings gold. Hockey and horses.

After Saturday, the Bruins and Canadiens won’t play Game 3 until Tuesday because Lana Del Ray has the Centre Bell reserved for a concert Monday night. In reality, the teams probably just want to kick back and watch Monday’s return of Jack Bauer, so who can blame them for the delay?

The Canadiens have yet to even take the ice at the TD Garden, and Boston fans have already felt two cheap shots this week in the names of ratings, golf dates, and toy figurines.

If you had tickets to both Wednesday night’s Red Sox-Rays game and Saturday’s Bruins-Habs game and can’t make either thanks to either brilliant scheduling tactic, rest assured that the boot will be dislodged from your groin sometime in the near future.


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