[OK. I'm an idiot. The internet would allow me to change this post and destroy all evidence of my idiocy but, that seems dishonest. Plus, my wife would just tell everyone that I am an idiot anyway so, I am leaving it here on full display. As Lenigan properly points out in the comments, the Rays are off tonight. That makes a good portion of what I wrote about their travel schedule utterly irrelevant.]
One of my goals here at The Ray Area is not to pass over topics more than once. There is enough to be said about this game not to re-hash ideas over and over. But, I am going to make an exception to that principle this morning.
Last month, I wrote about the Rays’ ridiculous travel schedule and how it might affect their on-field performance. In my opinion, I think we saw a little of that effect earlier this week when the Rays struggled against a pretty mediocre Seattle team after a cross-country flight. That trip, however, followed a day game.
Last night’s (this morning’s) trip was, in the words of BJ Upton “unreal.” Actually, that sentence should read that the trip “is” unreal because, as I sit here writing this at 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the Rays are high-above the great plains somewhere on a cross-country, overnight trip from Anaheim to Baltimore where they will play…tonight.
To recap, the Rays played a night game last night in Anaheim. A night game that ended at 1:26 am EDT. The Rays then showered, got into their themed travel clothing (pajamas), and boarded busses for the airport. But, because the game was at night, the airports closest to Anaheim were closed due to curfews. (Seriously. That is in the newspaper. Airports have curfews because, apparently, they have been hanging out with the wrong crowd at their Airport Middle School.) So, the pajama-clad Rays had to take a one-hour bus trip into LA to fly out of LAX.
If it took one hour for the Rays to shower, change, and load the bus, they arrived at LAX around 3:30 a.m. EDT (those are pretty generous estimates because they assume no problems with traffic…in Los Angeles…a city known for its efficient traffic patterns). Add at least another half hour to load the plane and get airborne (another generously short estimate) and the Rays were not en-route to Baltimore until 4 a.m. EDT, just 15 hours before tonight’s first pitch.
According to the website HowManyHours.com, the 2332-mile flight from LAX to Baltimore takes 5 hours. That puts the Rays on the ground three hours from now, at 9 a.m. EDT.
Then, they have to unload the plane, load the bus, and get to the hotel in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The hotel is just 12 miles from the airport but the Rays’ team bus will be traveling those 12 miles during Baltimore’s morning commute. Without knowing anything about Baltimore traffic I think it is fair to assume the Rays will be at their team hotel sometime between 10 and 10:30 a.m. EDT. That leaves just enough time for a late breakfast and a quick nap before the early bus leaves for the ballpark (usually around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. for guys that want extra work).
Just writing that is exhausting. Here’s the kicker. The blame for this doesn’t all fall on Major League Baseball. The Rays would have a cross-country flight no matter what because of the schedule but, that flight is so late because the Angels insisted on playing a night game last night. And, best I can tell, the home team has total discretion when it comes to game time. In fact, after finishing three in Baltimore, the Rays will head to Detroit for a one-night stop that will ALSO include a night game. Because that’s what the Tigers want.
Major League Baseball has to address this rule and standardize game times for get-away days (Jayson Stark wrote an excellent piece on the exhausting travel schedule of MLB teams and the sudden impact caused by the prohibition of stimulants). Not because it is inhumane to ask an athlete to spend all night on a flight only to play at his highest level 7 hours after landing without any good sleep, but because it effects the integrity of the standings. The Rays are 2.5 games out of first chasing a suddenly red-hot Red Sox team. They cannot afford to lose a game (or two) to travel. That simply isn’t fair.