With an item entitled “For Those In The East, Try Coffee Instead Of Beer”, the otherwise reliable Richard Sandomir of the New York Times turns to one of Phil Mushnick’s pet peeves, the late start times for baseball’s playoff games.

The scheduling of Game 1 of the American League division series suits the Yankees’ exalted status. The opener against the Los Angeles Angels is to start in prime time on Fox at 8:19 p.m. Eastern. But Game 2 tomorrow on ESPN will begin shortly after 10 p.m., which virtually guarantees a final out beyond 1 a.m., dandy for fans on the West Coast, but not so divine for Easterners.

Is the late start – the latest of any game in either L.D.S. – any way to thank the Yankees for drawing 4 million fans or for having a $200-million-plus payroll? (There was no comment yesterday from George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, about the scheduling or whether he intended to stay up for the duration.)

Bob DuPuy, the president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball, said the 10 p.m. start time was “not unduly severe.” He added, “More people over all will watch than if it started earlier.”

He says that viewership does not tumble as games proceed past midnight in the Eastern time zone but that fans tend to flee their televisions after 1 a.m. “To start at 10 is better than 11,” he said.

New York fans probably have not forgotten that Games 1 and 2 of the Mets-Arizona division series in 1999 began at the unforgivably late hour of 11:09 p.m.

The Yankees will return to prime time, their birthright, Friday night, on ESPN.

Aside from making it tough for Sandomir and colleagues to meet print deadlines, I again fail to grasp why this is a big deal. Aren’t games of this magnitude aren’t worth missing a little sleep over (or perhaps losing your job and/or falling asleep at the wheel the following day). I realize this is problematic for children in the Mushnick household, but I have it on good authority they are playing violent video games and/or buying overpriced Nikes online until the wee hours most evenings, anyway. Some wholesome MLB action, introduced and summarized by the Ma & Pa Walton of the baseball universe, Jennie Zelasko and Kevin Kennedy, might do them some good.