Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fairness in scheduling.

The Astros are moving to the American League next year.

All six divisions will have 5 teams.

While a number of people have called this change stupid and unnecessary, I have applauded the change.

For the first time in 15 years, Major League Baseball will have the opportunity to fix the horrendous misbalance that the current schedule has.  

When inter-league play was introduced, it basically ruined any possibility of symmetry in the schedule for teams within the same division because of two things, rivalry games and a misbalance in the number of teams in each division.  This was a fair compromise, though, as baseball wast trying to figure out some way to recover revenues lost after fan interest plummeted after the 1994 strike.  

The revenue situation in baseball has greatly improved, now, and a number of reports have come out over the last few days indicating that Major League Baseball is indeed looking to fix the unbalanced schedule by doing away with the guarantee of rivalry games and ensuring that every team in a division plays the same teams the same number of times over the course of the season.  

A while back I had outlined how this should look (here and here)...
  • 6 games against each team from one division in the other league, 3 home and 3 away (30 games), with the division that you play being rotated each year.  
  • 6 games against each team from in your league, but outside your division, 3 home and 3 away (totaling 60 games)
  • 18 games against each team in your division, 9 home and 9 away (totaling 72 games)
It's beautifully rounds out to 162 games.  

What does this mean?  

Well first off, it means that the Cubs will not be guaranteed to play the White Sox every year.  It also means the Cardinals won't be able to beat up on the Royals every year and the Mets won't be forced to get clobbered by the Yankees and so on.  Besides, from what I've seen, the rivalry thing has started to lose its luster anyway, especially here in Chicago.  

That doesn't mean that baseball won't take a small attendance and revenue hit by eliminating these games every year...they will, but this hit isn't as large as it would have been just 5 years ago.  

If losing the rivalry games every year is still a concern, I did outline, in this post, a way to have rivalry games 2 out of 3 years (3 games against teams in two of the three divisions of the other league).  This isn't quite as fair, but might be a decent compromise.   

Personally, I have no problem with the BP Cup going away.  (stupid!  ugh!)

The biggest argument against this, and against the Astros moving the the AL in the first place, is the fact that inter-league games will need to be played throughout the season, not just a for a couple weeks in May and June.  What this would mean is that on the last week of the season, there will be at least one inter-league series going on which would potentially dampen a major pennant race.  Who would want to see the Yankees playing the Padres on the last week of the season?  

I think there is actually a pretty easy solution to this problem.  Take all the teams that finished in last place in their division the previous year, and make them play against their appropriate inter-league counterpart during the last week of the season.  I think it's a pretty good punishment for a last place team, and on top of that, it is rather unlikely that these teams will be a part of any major playoff race during the last week of the season.  

This does not appear to be a done deal at this point, and I have a small fear baseball will find a way to screw this whole thing up, but I am going to remain optimistic that we will finally have a fair schedule again in baseball.