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Balance, you must learn balance
2006-09-12 10:10
by Bob Timmermann

This article from the Canadian Press quotes various managers discussing how they don't like the unbalanced schedule.

That's the way it used to be, when teams played 12 or 13 games against every other club in the league. It made sense before the wild-card era began in 1995 and makes even more sense now.

The first imbalances sneaked into the schedule when interleague play began in 1997. Those were tolerable, even though teams competing for the wild-card didn't play the same rivals, because of the attendance boost in interleague games (around 13 per cent since its inception).

Then the unbalanced schedule, heavy on intradivision games, was introduced in 2001 so there would be more meetings between heated rivals such as the Yankees and Red Sox, Dodgers and Giants and Cardinals and Cubs.

Omitted from this discussion is the fact that from 1969-1976, teams played teams in their division 18 times and teams in the other division 12 times. The AL switched to a schedule where you played each division rival 13 times and teams in the other division 12 times in 1978. This led to teams playing 78 intradivisional games and 84 interdivisional games.

Disparities in the schedule among wild-card contenders have been brushed off, but grumblings about it are starting to grow.

"It's boring for the players and fans and I think it affects attendance," Houston Astros manager Phil Garner told USA Today.

"Baseball is more interesting with a balanced schedule," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel also told the paper.

Why would baseball be inherently more interesting with a balanced schedule? It might be fairer, but it would be more interesting. There's still the small matter of the two leagues not having the same number of teams and only two divisions (NL Central and AL West) having an even number of teams, so they can assure that they will have intradvisional games on the final weekend.

Even so, on the final weekend there will be the following interdivisional matchups: Colorado at Chicago, Houston at Atlanta, and Tampa Bay at Cleveland.

There are a lot of problems with MLB's schedule. But I don't see what the problem with playing more games against teams in your own division than against teams outside of your division.

2006-09-12 10:29:15
1.   Ken Arneson
I only browsed the article, but it didn't seem to mention the real reason for the imbalanced schedule: more games on TV in prime time.

The more games you play in your own time zone, the more games that start at 7-7:30, the better your TV ratings will be, and the more money you'll make.

Being fair or interesting has nothing to do with it.

2006-09-12 10:29:30
2.   DXMachina
I agree. In fact, I remember all sorts of grousing about teams not being able to make up ground in their own division when the AL was playing their balanced schedule in the eighties. Still, I think the current situation where, say, the Mets and Dodgers only play a single home and home series, stinks. I thought the 18-12 setup was ideal. Maybe they could dump the interleague games (which really only make sense for a few geographical pairs of teams), they could add back those out of division games.

Yeah, I know. Not gonna happen. The Fans of the traditional Atlanta-Seattle rivalry won't stand for it.

2006-09-12 10:34:54
3.   Bob Timmermann
The word "television" does not appear in the linked article.

Do East Coast fans really want to double the number of games that they have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to watch?

2006-09-12 10:59:00
4.   Penarol1916
3. Forget the East Coast fans, I want the Dodgers to visit Chicago more than once a year.
2006-09-12 11:09:25
5.   Xeifrank
Fair. Not fair. I think the schedules are fair enough. Teams on the west coast and especially teams like Seattle travel enough distance as it is without taking away trips to other west coast cities. To these managers I say "Quit complaining!". If you take care of business on the field the schedule doesn't really matter. It's fair enough! Look at the NFL out division schedules. They have a template that forces good teams to play more difficult schedules than weaker teams. Nobody in the NFL complains about it. Sure, they say "wow, those Giants sure have a tough schedule this year.", but that's about it. vr, Xei
2006-09-12 11:20:41
6.   Bob Timmermann
NFL coaches always complain about their schedule. But it's usually about when they play Monday night games or Thursday night games.
2006-09-12 11:50:49
7.   DXMachina
3 Depends on whether or not the East Coast fan is a fan of a team that already plays most of its games on the West Coast.
2006-09-12 12:27:59
8.   Gagne55
I think the unbalanced schedual is more exciting in that the teams play the other teams they're competing for a playoff spot for more often. The wild card screws it up though. I'd be in favor of the following allignment.

American League:

Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas
New York, Boston, Baltimore, Toronto
Minnesota, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago
Tampa Bay, Texas, Kansas City, Memphis

National League
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arizonia, San Deigo
New York, Phillidelphia, Washington, Atlanta
Cincinatti, Chicago, St. Louis, Millwake
Florida, Colorado, Houston, Pittsburgh

And kill the wild card.

2006-09-12 12:32:08
9.   Gagne55
And, yes, switching Atlanta with Pittsburgh would make more geographical sense, but I wanted to preserve rivalries. The southern divisions seems to just have the 'leftovers' though.
2006-09-12 12:33:23
10.   Xeifrank
8. Not a bad idea entirely. I'm not sure which cities would be leading candidates for expansion. Pitching is already watered down as it is, so that would be one of the downsides. vr, Xei
2006-09-12 13:23:38
11.   Jacob L
If MLB wanted to have a regular season that was "fair" they should at least have the same number of teams in each division. Every team in the AL West has a 20% better chance of being in the playoffs than the rest of baseball right from the get go.
2006-09-12 13:51:50
12.   Schteeve
More Interesting = Better Ratings. So yeah, more interesting does have something to do with it. Just not the way it was originally stated.
2006-09-12 20:49:06
13.   Jose Habib
As a Dodger fan, I'm sick of playing expansion teams all the time (Yes, the Padres are an expansion team) and would much rather play the Cubs, Phillies, Braves, Pirates, Reds, etc. more than one home and away series per year.

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