After thinking of the alignment mentioned for the new simulated league, the teams assigned to the NL East and those assigned to the AL Central will be flipped.
The geographic based alignments remain in place and are now as follows.
AL West: Twins, Brewers, Cubs, White Sox
AL Central: Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Cardinals
AL East:, Reds, Indians, Pirates, Tigers, Blue Jays
NL West: Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, Angels, Padres
NL Central, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, Nationals
NL East: Braves, Rays, Marlins, Astros, Rangers
Looking Back at the Ultimate Simulated Baseball League and Looking Ahead to a Second Simulation with a New Twist
This past spring, I created the ultimate simulated baseball league, using the facilities of WhatIfSports.com. The league was based on real life seasons for players who spent time in the big leagues, I would look at a player and decide which season was his most productive and assign him to the appropriate team. Some long time franchises had too many players to choose from, while more recent franchises were more difficult to put together. So for instance, while the best statistical season for Miguel Cabrera was 2012 in Detroit prior to this season, I used an earlier season for Cabrera as a Marlin, since the Tigers had other options that did not exist for the Marlins.
WIS allows you to set a salary cap, as each player is assigned a dollar value based on a total statistical profile which includes defensive ability. The league cap was $160 million and yes the teams with lots of historic star power came closest to this mark, think Yankees anyone? All teams had over $110 million in payroll value.
The divisional alignment was based on the 1998-2012 model and the schedule used was based on a balanced approach used from 1998-2000.
While the division races ended up somewhat predictable, there were some surprises. The Yankees were dominant in the AL East, the Red Sox came in second claiming the wild card berth. The Orioles had a very hot start but they fell off and were third, the Rays and Blue Jays had horrible seasons. In the AL Central, all but the Royals showed signs of potential success at various stages, the Indians ultimately took the division leaving the White Sox and Twins behind, the tigers did not do as well as I thought they might and though the Royals finished last, the KC grouping had a respectable mark. The AL West was as most would have expected dominated by the Athletics with their large number of historically great player seasons going back into the Philadelphia days, the angels, Rangers, and Mariners were all well off the pace.
IN the NL, the most entertaining race was in the NL Central, all but the Brewers were contending past the half way mark and with 40 games to play, the Cubs, Reds, Cardinals, and Astros were all very much part of the race. Ultimately the Reds would finish just behind the Cubs who claimed the division crown. IN the East, the Braves were the class of the division, but the Nationals team which had many former Montreal Expos players did surprisingly well and when all was said and done, the Nationals and Reds ended up tied for the wild card. The Giants took the west in relatively easy fashion, the dodgers never truly contended which was shocking, the Padres were respectable and the two expansion clubs of the 1990’s struggled.
The league was set up like actual baseball in terms of the DH, so AL teams clearly had more offensive power, none more so than the Yankees. Teams played in their current ballpark, which sent Babe Ruth to more than 80 homers, Gehrig finished second in all of the league. Bonds and McGwire mean while did not even lead the NL, that race was a battle that McGwire did almost win, but he was edged out by two players in homer happy venues, hack Wilson of the Cubs and shockingly Vinnie Castilla of the Rockies took the top two spots. Castillo hit 46 homers in 1998, he hit 55 in the simulated league, far out distancing the effort put up by 1997 Larry Walker, who fell short of his actual performance during that MVP 49 homer season.
Several pitchers had very dominant seasons, but none more so probably than Greg Maddux of the Braves and Luis tiant of the Indians, both with 23 wins. Russ, not Whity Ford had a huge season for the Yankees, though his other stats were not as impressive and many Yankees earned wins on the strength of a powerful offense with Mantle clearing the 50 homer mark in addition to what was previously mentioned by Ruth and Gehrig.
IN the playoffs, the Reds clubbed the Nationals in the wild card playoff, then after losing the first two games against the Braves, Cincinnati came back and took the next three to claim one of the division series in the NL. The Giants had their way in sweeping the Cubs in the other series, which resulted in a Giants matchup with the Reds for the NLCS.
IN the AL, the Indians knocked out the Red Sox, while the Yankees took out the Athletics though the Oakland bunch took game 1.
Ohio did not do well in either LCS as the Giants took out the Reds and the Yankees did likewise to the Indians. The World Series on paper and statistically speaking when looking at season performance appeared to be a Yankee cakewalk. But ultimately the Giants would prove to be the best, taking the series in six games and shutting down the power plant that was the New York offense.
Now the 2013 season is done and that means some new players are available who had career years better than before, or in the case of players like Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, a new kid broke in with huge success. So in the coming days, a new league will be ran to see what results we get. But this time, it will be different in some respects.
IN the old league, teams were restricted to players who only played a given season for a single franchise. So Gabe white in 2000 who had a very good year as a relief pitcher was not a potential pitcher for the Rockies, even though all but a couple innings were pitched in the Rockies uniform. This next league will relax that rule, so that players who had very productive seasons split between two franchises can be considered. However, they will only be used based on one portion of their performance, not the total record. So take Rick Sutcliff of 1984, he would clearly have a spot on the Cubs team, but only his Cubs portion of the season would be chosen using the WIS database, not his entire season including his starts with Cleveland, because not all of that record would have been compiled with the Cubs.
Other changes, the league will have a lower cap of $135 million, which will even the field a bit more for the expansion era franchises. But most significant, given that sadly MLB is moving toward the DH in both leagues it would appear, all teams will use the DH in this league. Most radicle though will be the alignment, as I will experiment with a geographical alignment, which I will now explain.
The WIS system still does not yet offer a system that has the 6 divisions of five teams each, but it does offer what we had from 1998-2012, two divisions of five teams in each league, a four team division in the AL and a six-team division in the NL. Using that setup, here is the geographical alignment that will be used in this second simulation.
The AL West will become the upper Midwest division, featuring the Twins, Brewers, Cubs, and White Sox. The AL Central will be the southern or sunbelt division, featuring the Rangers, Astros, Braves, Rays, and Marlins. The AL East will be what one might call a rust belt division, featuring the blue Jays, Tigers, Reds, Indians, and Pirates. The NL West will be the California league consisting of the Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, Angels, and Padres. The NL Central will be used as the northeast corridor division, featuring the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, and Nationals. The NL East will be home to what is left, the Mariners, diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, and Cardinals.
In the coming days, I will post the complete rosters for each of the 30 teams and at some point in late November or early December, I will formally put the league together and begin the simulation. The championship team of the league will be decided just before real life spring training opens for the 2014 baseball season.
Today, many fans of Major League Baseball enjoy coverage of their team any place, any time thanks to various media efforts that come with a certain amount of fees. Baseball fans can here the home broadcast of every game by purchasing a package from Sirius XM, generally about $15 monthly. The satellite service offers the visiting feed via its online site for a slightly larger fee. My preferred way is to pay the $19.95 yearly fee for access via the mobile platform using the MLB Game Day technology and I also purchase the similar Game Day Audio package for use on my laptop. This is certainly cheaper and offers the choice of every feed home or away and it includes the Spanish broadcasts as well. IN general, if I’m going to use a device to listen to a game here at home in rural western Wyoming, my laptop is by far the preferred method. ON certain occasions if I am out on the road with my wife, I’ll use our satellite radio to tune in a game, but since I’m the only one who is a baseball fan, I reserve that for moments when something very significant is going on, the pennant chase at the end of the season or if I get wind of a potential accomplishment such as a no-hitter. But as a former Texan and with a future move back to Texas on the horizon for our family, I wish that the two ball clubs in Texas were on stations with large coverage areas. If we end up in a city that lacks either a Rangers or Astros affiliate, it would be nice to be able to get the games on a powerful AM signal, something which is not possible for either team given current radio contracts.
The Rangers were always on a powerful AM station from the time the franchise arrived in 1972 through 2008, 23 years on WBAP and another 14 from 1995-2008 on KRLD. But then the club moved to mostly FM coverage in 2009 on KRLD-FM, only weekend games remained on the AM signal. Then in 2011, the team moved to KESN-FM, a station with a large signal but one that is tilted to the northern side of the DFW metro and beyond into southern Oklahoma. The signal is much better in southern Oklahoma than it is in the southern suburbs of the DFW metroplex. This contract is in place for at least one more season in 2014.
The Astros first 23 seasons were on weaker AM stations in Houston, mostly on KPRC which has a 5000 watt limited night time signal that can’t be heard much past the limits of greater Houston. The team finally moved on to Houston’s powerful KTRH which has a 50,000 watt signal that covers all of south and central Texas at night, with an eastern reach into most of Louisiana, and Mississippi, though it is not a clear channel like KRLD and WBAP. This arrangement lasted from 1985-1990, before the team moved back to KPRC from 1991-1995 and the stronger but not significant signal of KILT from 1996-1998. KILT can be received up and down the Texas coast and at times you can get it at night as far west as Austin, but it’s a hit and miss signal. The team returned to KTRH from 1999-2012, before moving to another weaker signal of KBME, which is comparable to KPRC in terms of night time reception.
Both these teams chose to move to stations that focused on the all sports audience, which means they reach the more hard core sports fan. But many fans who may not care to listen to sports radio all the time, get left out in the cold by the decisions both teams made to leave the more powerful news/talk oriented stations like the Rangers former homes on WBAP and KRLD and the Astros former home on KTRH.
What the teams forget in today’s make a buck at all costs effort, is that many fans still would like to have the freedom both in terms of costs and accessibility to listen to the radio broadcasts at any location without the need for access to the internet or a wireless/satellite signal. When fans just 35 miles outside the home city of the team cannot receive the local broadcasts, it makes one wonder what guides the decisions certain teams are making as it relates to their radio broadcasts. While the Rangers and Astros both have a fair number of network affiliates, most are all weaker stations and thus a second option for receiving the broadcast is not available for fans who are outside the range of these weaker AM or FM signals. But the two Texas teams are far from being the only ones who have committed such a disservice to their listening audience. Now, a look at the teams who get it and those who could improve what they offer.
A total of 13 teams are on very powerful stations that truly provide the best possible coverage area.
Orioles, WBAL-AM 1090, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Mariners, KIRO-AM 710, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
White Sox, WSCR-AM 670, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Indians, WTAM-AM 1100, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Yankees, WFAN-AM 660 starting in 2014, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Cubs, WGN-AM 720, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Reds, WLW-AM 700, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Rockies, KOA-AM 850, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Mets, WOR-AM 710 starting in 2014, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Phillies, WPHT-AM 1210, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Cardinals, KMOX-AM 1120, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Padres, XEPRS-am 1090, based across the Mexican border, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Giants, KNBR-AM 680, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.
Of these 13 teams, only the Padres, Giants, Yankees, Mariners, and White Sox are on stations that also primarily focus their programming in the all sports market.
A pair of AL East teams are on powerful stations but they are not clear channel and are limited in how far their signal is permitted to travel at night, despite being at 50,000 watts power.
Blue Jays, CJCL-AM 590.
Red Sox, WEEI-AM 850 and WEEI-FM 93.7.
Note that in Boston’s case, their AM 850 signal is not a clear channel because stations in Denver (the Rockies flagship) and Ixhuatlancillo, Mexico are given the clear channel allocations. Weaker stations on that frequency are also found in the eastern United States, including the Raleigh, North Carolina region.
Both teams are on all sports stations, both Boston and Toronto have more powerful stations that they could negotiate to serve as the flagship radio broadcaster. The best options for Toronto are either AM-740 CFFZM or AM-1010 CFRB, both clear channel signals. Boston’s clear channel option would be on AM-1030, WBZ.
A total of nine teams are on weaker AM stations or have moved to FM signals that have a smaller coverage area, though powerful AM clear channel frequencies are available. The Rangers as mentioned before are among these teams, with their FM KESN 103.3 broadcast on an all sports station, WBAP-AM 820 and KRLD-AM 1080 were both former flagships and both are clear channel frequencies with massive night time signals from the DFW region that would serve the club better. Below is information about the other eight clubs that could improve their local radio reach to a potential clear channel signal.
In 2013, the Twins moved to KTWN-FFM, previously the Twins were on either WCCO-AM 830 or KSTP-AM 1500, which just happen to both be clear channel stations in the twins cities.
The Tigers have spent more than a decade on WXYT which is a weaker AM signal on AM 1270, they are also on the sister station of WXYT at 93.7-FM. For a long time, the Tigers were on Detroit’s powerful WJR-AM 760 and if they moved back to that signal, fans around a huge part of the continent could hear their games at night.
The Athletics have historically never been on a powerful AM station, but they could try to move off of KGMZ at 95.7-FM, an all-sports station, to either the clear channel signal of KGO-AM 810 in San Francisco, or to the powerful though not clear channel coverage of KCBS-AM 740. KCBS signal is like that described of Houston’s KTRH on the same 740 frequency.
The Angels and Dodgers are both on weaker stations. The Angels are on both KSPN-AM 710 and KLAA-AM 830, both have 50,000 watt day signals but reduce power drastically at night to 20,000 on 830 and 10,000 on 710. The Dodgers flagship is on KLAC-AM 570, which broadcasts at just 5000 watts. Los Angeles has a pair of clear channel stations, the talk oriented KFI-AM 640 and the news oriented KNX-AM 1070.
The Pirates which were historically on the clear channel signal of KDKA-AM 1020 left that signal for FM coverage in 2006. Currently they are on the FM version of KDKA at 93.7.
The nationals made a similar move which took them off of the powerful 1500-AM signal in Washington which was at one time WTOP and now is home to WFED. Interestingly, WFED does broadcast some spring training games, but the Nat’s main station during the regular season is the 106.9 WJFK in Manassas, Virginia. The signal is not the best in metro Washington and coverage is not as strong outside DC to the north, in similar manner to what happens in the southern DFW suburbs with the Rangers FM broadcasts.
Then there are the Atlanta Braves, which boast a huge network but no significant night time signal. For a long time, WSB-AM 750 was the clear channel signal that carried Braves games until the end of 1991 and again starting in 1995 until the middle of the last decade. The Braves are on a pair of local FM stations and on the signal of WCNN which has a very weak night time signal on AM 680. A move to WSB would be very welcome news.
Of these nine teams, all but the Twins are on sports talk oriented stations, while the options for stations with powerful signals are in the news/talk arena.
Six teams are in markets that do not have a clear channel signal, those teams are the Astros as mentioned above, plus the Marlins, Rays, Diamondbacks, Royals, and Brewers. Houston has the option some day of returning to the 50,000 watt signal of KTRH, the Astros too are currently on a weaker all sports AM station. Such options do not exist for the other five teams on this list. Three, the Brewers, Rays, and Diamondbacks are all on very reliable stations that are all on the 620 frequency of the AM dial, WDAE Tampa, KTAR Phoenix, and WTMJ Milwaukee. The Rays and diamondbacks are on stations that are currently an all-sports format.
The Royals are on a similar station at KCSP just one slot down the dial at 610 AM. The Marlins are on one of Miami’s more powerful AM signals at AM 790 WAXY, WIOD-AM 610 while not quite as strong has a larger signal coverage area because of its frequency and transmitter configuration. The Marlins and royals are both on all sports stations. Interestingly, the Marlins are the only team which has a stronger signal for its Spanish flagship, as WAQI-AM 710 is much like KTRH and KCBS in its 50,000 watt coverage with a more limited night time directional coverage pattern. All other Spanish broadcasts are on weak local stations and a Spanish network does not exist on radio in most situations.
Another idea for teams to consider is to try and get network agreements on large AM night time signals in cities outside their local markets. The Astros in 1991-92 had most all of their night games on WOAI in San Antonio as an example. Stations like KOB Albuquerque, WHAS Louisville, WWL New Orleans, WOAI, WHO Des Moines, KFAB Omaha, WTB Charlotte, WTIC Hartford, KWKH Shreveport, WRVA Richmond, KSL Salt Lake City, KFAQ Tulsa, WLAC Nashville, KOKC Oklahoma City, WWKB Buffalo, KFBK Sacramento, and KXEL Waterloo could all be potential affiliates of Major League Baseball teams. The stations could even enter to agreements where only night time games were carried, which would maximize this potential coverage while giving those stations the ability to preserve their day time programming if they chose.
Above all else, baseball needs to be willing to maintain a connection with its broadcasting roots. Some teams are not available more than for a few games on free over the air TV and the current trend is taking even the radio broadcast and reducing the ability of fans in certain markets to have access to their favorite team over the airwaves. Fans should at least have the option to get these free broadcasts in the area designated as a team’s local broadcast zone. Otherwise, MLB should get rid of the broadcast territories all together.
IN recent years, MLB purposely scheduled all teams to have the “squeeze week” where they play a pair of two game sets and a three game set all at the same time. IN 2014, MLB made a smart move by making the squeeze weeks independent of one another to a degree. The squeeze week series will again be the home and away rivalry series as was done in 2013, but instead of having all 15 series at the same time Monday through Tuesday at one ballpark and then shifting to another for a Wednesday and Thursday set, these series are more smartly built into the schedule as it works for the teams involved. Now, a look at the rivalry series and in some cases, the mythical rivalry series that are used to fill out this small part of 2014 on the MLB schedule.
The first three series are scheduled May 5-8, Rangers v Rockies, Blue Jays v Phillies, and White Sox V Cubs. In all three matchups, the National League team is home May 5-6, then the series will switch to the American League team for the games of May 7-8.
The next series from May 12-15 is the Subway Series, the Yankees are home the first two nights on May 12-13, before the series shifts to the Mets home field for games on May 14-15.
Over Memorial Day week, only one home and home series is scheduled, whereas all 15 were done this way in 2013 during the same time frame. The Red Sox and Braves play Memorial Day and Tuesday in Atlanta, May 26-27 on the calendar, before moving to Boston for games May 28-29.
Three more series, the sixth through eighth overall for this particular format are scheduled the following week June 2-5. The matchups are Royals V Cardinals, Rays V Marlins, and Twins V Brewers. All three National League teams will be at home for the June 2-3 games, switching to the American League teams as the host on June 4-5.
The next week June 9-12 features a series between the Astros and Diamondbacks. The June 9-10 games are at Arizona, June 11-12 at Houston.
June 16-19 is the yearly occurring series between the Mariners and padres. The June 16-17 games are in Seattle, June 18-19 in San Diego. Perhaps MLB will decide some time to mix and match these teams as well, given the flip from one season to the next as the Rangers and Astros switched opposition between the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
July 7-10 brings two more of these home and away series, Orioles V Nationals and Athletics V Giants. Washington and Oakland are the home teams July 7-8, Baltimore and San Francisco July 9-10.
The remaining three series, Angels V Dodgers, Reds V Indians, and Pirates V Tigers are scheduled after the All Star break.
Two of these series, the Ohio Cup and Freeway Series are scheduled august 4-7. The Dodgers and Indians are home August 4-5, the Reds and Angels play host August 6-7.
The Pirates and Tigers are the last teams to play their squeeze week home and home series. It is scheduled the following week August 11-14, with Pittsburgh the home club August 11-12, before the series moves to Detroit august 13-14.
All other interleague series will be scheduled throughout the season with AL West teams facing opposition from the NL East, while the AL Central squares off against the NL West and the AL East meets the NL Central. As was done in 2013, all teams will have a pair of three-game home series against two teams, a pair of three-game road series against two more teams, while playing a fifth team in a home and away arrangement, two games at each ballpark.
Solutions to Major League Baseball Scheduling issues, with a Focus on Chalenges for the 2015 Regular Season.
I was thinking about the future MLB schedule that will be released next fall for 2015 and there are potential issues that will have to be resolved. Before I get to those particular problems, lets first cover some ground about the new scheduling system, issues it presents and alternatives, then you will see how I am looking ahead to a potential 2015 schedule for Major League Baseball.
Say what you will about the 2013 schedule that was released last fall for this MLB season. Are there problems with teams playing only one home and one road series against everyone outside the division? The Rays would certainly say yes, as they are in the midst of a 37 game, 38 day schedule, in part because of a makeup game in KC that was originally scheduled for what turned out to be a very snowy May 2. The Rays would also argue that this idea of having a truly unbalanced schedule is largely the cause of this problem and there would be some truth behind that. Before 1998, every team in baseball had two visits to every other teams ballpark in their own league. The 1997 season brought us the first examples of one series only visits, which were the interleague games on that schedule, a baseball first. The 1998 schedule brought the NL a very set of random schedules, with teams playing nine games against most teams outside their division, but in some cases only seven or eight games, meaning that teams would only make one visit to one ballpark and play host in two series or vice versa. Scheduling had no real true predicted outcome, other than that teams played almost the same number of games against teams in their own divisions in both leagues. When 2001 brought us the modern unbalanced schedule, teams in all but the NL Central made three visits and were host three times against their divisional opposition and in nearly all instances, teams would have one home and one road series outside the division against everyone else, with a few exceptions.
All indications are that MLB will use a similar approach in 2014 to the one used this season and I largely have no complaints about it, though to me the divisional schedule should be a flat nine home and nine away against everyone and the non-divisional part within a team’s own league should be seven games against everyone else instead of six against four teams and seven against six more. The interleague arrangement is as fair as it can be given the 20 game limit in the current basic agreement and the limits baseball has set on itself in terms of how it schedules games. More on that in a few paragraphs. If baseball went to a more balanced schedule in 2014 keeping the current interleague arrangement which we can be very certain won’t happen, the total of divisional games would be cut from 19 to 13 against each other team, or a reduction from 76 to 52 divisional games. This would push the number of games outside the division but within the same league up from the current 66 to a total of 90 or nine games against each of the remaining 10 teams. IN affect, you would be taking eight series of scheduled games off the books in division play, while adding ten series of games outside the division. Because you are adding to new series to the schedule and taking the total number of scheduled series from 52 to 54, you would schedule as the NL did for years when it had 54 scheduled series between 1969-92. You would schedule the games outside the division against six teams in a 3-3, 3 format. Against the other four teams, you would schedule in a 4-2, 3 or 3, 4-2 arrangement. This of course creates a problem with more 2-game series, a problem that cannot be avoided if baseball insists on keeping the traditional schedule where teams always play an early week and a weekend schedule. There were very rare cases in 1997 where teams did play a Monday-Tuesday or Tuesday-Wednesday, followed by a Thursday-Friday, and then a Saturday-Monday schedule. You can see this if you look at the 1997 June schedule for teams such as the Montreal Expos on www.baseballreference.com. There was one other time in 1998 where baseball took an odd scheduling approach. The Braves were at the Rockies and the Marlins at the Diamondbacks from Friday April 17 to Monday April 20. All four teams flew east and took Tuesday off, then from Wednesday April 22 to Friday April 24, the Rockies were at the Marlins and the Diamondbacks at the Braves. The visiting teams then switched cities and played two more on the road for that Saturday and Sunday April 25-26, then they all flew west again and this time, the Braves went right back to playing the Diamondbacks and the Marlins likewise against the Rockies. So can baseball be a bit out of the box if it wanted, sure it could.
Now let’s look ahead to 2015 and interleague play in particular, now that I have presented the options that could be offered using a slightly modified unbalanced schedule and the more balanced approach just presented. The problem in 2015 is that the scheduled interleague arrangement is NL East vs. AL East, NL Central VS AL Central, and NL West VS AL West. The issue, teams only played 16 games against their assigned interleague division, three home games against two teams, three away against two more, and a two home-two road arrangement against the fifth. The remaining four games were a two home-two away in the squeeze week against a natural rival. IN 2015, the natural rivals are already part of the alignment, but going down to just 16 interleague games and adding the other four games to play within a team’s own league outside the division creates a problem, not enough scheduled series. The only way to resolve this would be to force teams to play a pair of two-game series in place of a single four-game series against a team in its own division or in one of its non-division matchups within the league. This though does not work, in that you have just 51 scheduled series, so you would have to apply this approach twice to create 52 scheduled series, 26 home and 26 away, which also then creates the one squeeze week of three scheduled series, to offset the one series for the week of the All Star Game. Chances are that baseball will not take this approach, though it could be a workable solution and it would make the balance a bit more fair in terms of the games played outside the division, seven games against eight teams, six against two more.
Another approach, though one I could not live with frankly, would be to schedule only games against your assigned interleague division and keeping the max total of 20 such games. The approach here would involve scheduling a four-game series at home against one team, a four-game road series against a second team, and three sets of two-game series home and away against each of the other three teams, using your designated rival in the squeeze week with a two home-two away back-to-back. This would be a very doable schedule in terms of the number of series, holding at the present 52, but four-game series would almost always have to be scheduled in the Thursday-Sunday or Friday-Monday block, since baseball does not prefer to schedule a two-game set over a weekend period. So in this respect, the scheduling does become quite restrictive and it might be more of a headache than the folks in the Commissioner’s Office care to take on.
This brings me to a third approach and one that I favor the most. Again, keeping in mind that I want to change the number of divisional games from 19 to 18 against each divisional opposition and move the total of all non-divisional games in a team’s league to seven per opponent, I propose this approach for the remaining 20 games that are filled by interleague play. Schedule the assigned division as you have done in the prior seasons, in this case, keep the two home-two away squeeze week against the major rival, then schedule three home against two teams and three away against two more. That gives you 16 games and leaves four on the schedule. Those four can be scheduled as a two-game series at home and a two-game series on the road against teams in the other divisions. The idea. Take the 2013 standings and do an approach like the NFL. So the 5th place Astros would host the Cubs and visit the Marlins, the 5th place White Sox would host the Marlins and visit the Padres, the 5th place Blue Jays would host the Padres and visit the Cubs, assuming those are the teams that all finish last. You would take the same approach for the teams in 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st. The reason you have to use the 2013 schedule rather than 2014, is because the Players Union must have a draft of a preliminary schedule by July 1, 2014 and clearly the 2014 standings would not be known. Taking this approach for these two-game series, also allows for some flexibility for scheduling other series prior to or after such games on the schedule. Say the Astros were at Miami for two games using this approach in 2015, they could then stay in the eastern part of the nation and play the Rays or go north and play a team like Baltimore, Boston, or the Yankees. Similarly, they could play an eastern division team in the AL, then head to Miami for those two games before going back to Houston or coming west to play a team in the Midwest, like the white Sox or Kansas City.
This approach would keep the schedule looking very much like it did in 2013 and should in 2014. The only difference, instead of playing six different teams, a team would play seven different teams for interleague purposes, three games against four teams, four games in the two-two home and away against the rival, then two home and two away against two different teams outside the assigned interleague division.
These are approaches baseball could take to create a 2015 schedule that is at least a tad more agreeable to all involved. My task in the coming months, I may succeed and I may fail, is to create schedule drafts using all of the approaches I have described here and submitting them to all concerned around the baseball industry. The three proposals I will submit, 20 interleague games, 18 against each team in the division and seven against each team outside the division in a team’s own league as just described, as well as my approaches that take the same interleague formula and go with a 13-nine split between games against divisional opposition and non—divisional opposition within the league, and the 16 game interleague approach with 19 games against each team in the division, seven against each of eight teams outside the division in a team’s own league and six games against the remaining two teams.
If I have made your head spin so fast that it is about to pop off, like a cork under increasing pressure as it is forced up by the combination of vinegar and baking soda used in so many elementary science experiments, please accept my apology.
What History Says About Postseason Baseball Participation with Five Weeks Left in the Regular Season
As we come down the home stretch in the 2013 Major League Baseball season, some races seem clearly decided, others are anything but and every game won and lost will mean the difference between a division title, playing in a one-game Wild Card playoff, or sitting at home all together in October.
Using the data available through Baseball Reference, I went back and looked at the standings for the divisions and the wild card births going back to the first season the wild card officially appeared in post season, which was 1995. It is important to remember that from 1995 through 2000, all teams played a balanced schedule and so by the end of August, some potential divisional matchups were already completed for the season. But even in the unbalanced schedule era since 2001, some teams may have finished their season series with one another before the final five weeks of play, especially in the old six-team NL Central. Even this year with a truly balanced alignment which should mean everyone plays a home and an away series against their divisional opposition over the final five weeks, a formula that is very doable in a well-designed schedule using the current format, MLB decided not to take that approach for this season. Oakland for example has yet to play Minnesota and will have both a home and an away series with the Twins in September. Too many other odd quirks exist in the current schedule and it has nothing to do with the format. The current format could allow easily for maximum divisional play the final five weeks. Each week, one team from each division would be designated to play outside the division. When that happened, one team would play two others in its own league, Pittsburgh plays Arizona and Miami for example in the NL, Oakland plays Minnesota and Boston for example in the AL. Minnesota and Boston would each play and interleague series, in 2013 the Twins would have played the Marlins, and the Red Sox would have played the Diamondbacks, just as an example. The other four weeks, teams would play within their own division, which would allow for a home series and an away series. I will have a post that looks more at scheduling for next season, once the 2014 schedule is released in about three or four weeks. Perhaps in 2014 MLB, will do a better job of scheduling in this respect.
Scheduling aside, ultimately it does come down to how you play on the field, no matter who your scheduled opposition is over the final five weeks. So before we look at the 2013 standings following the conclusion of play on Sunday August 25, leaving 35 days on the regular season calendar, let’s go back in time and look at how things played out with 35 days to go in the regular season for the period 1995-2012.
At the end of play Sunday August 27, 1995, the Red Sox lead the AL east at 70-43. The Yankees were 54-58 and trailed by 15.5 games, the Orioles were 16 back at 54-59. The Indians were well on their way in the AL Central with a 76-35 record and a lead of 18.5 over the second place Brewers who were 58-54. The Angels lead the AL West at 67-47, the Rangers were in second at 59-54, 7.5 games back and the Mariners were 57-56, 9.5 games behind. Over in the NL, the Braves were well on their way in the East, they had a record of 73-39 and lead the Phillies by 15 games, Philly had a 59-55 mark. The Reds likewise were way out in front in the NL Central at 70-41, Houston with a 57-55 record trailed by 13.5 games and the Cubs at 55-57 were 15.5 behind. The Dodgers had the lead out in the NL West, but their record was only 60-54, the Rockies at 58-55 trailed by 1.5 and the 55-57 Padres still had hope just 4 back, even the Giants at 52-61 were only 7.5 games out. The AL Wild Card was a scramble, the 59-54 Rangers held the lead but the Brewers were just a half game back at 58-54, the Mariners 2 out, Royals 3.5 out, and Yankees 4.5 out at 54-58 were all in the mix. Even the Athletics at 55-60 and Orioles at 54-59, 5 games out were still considered contenders. IN the NL, the Astros once held a better than 5 game lead in the race for the wild card, but a major fade by Houston in late August turned the NL into just as mad of a scramble. The Phillies had the lead at 59-55, the Rockies at 58-55 were a half game out. The Astros trailed by 1 game, the padres and Cubs trailed by 3, the Expos by 4.5 at 54-59 and the 52-61 Giants, who were in last but just 7.5 out in their own division, were only 6.5 out of a Wild Card.
How did things end up in 1995? The Red Sox held on to the AL East, but they went just 16-15 those final five weeks. The Yankees went on an incredible run of 25-7 to finish second in the division but more important, it lead them from behind teams such as the Rangers, Brewers, mariners, and Royals, to capture the AL wild card berth. The Indians continued to streak to the AL Central title, going 24-9 over the same stretch. The drama would play out in the AL West. The mariners would make up that 9.5 game deficit on the Angels and win the division in a one-game playoff. Down the stretch, the Mariners went 22-10, the Rangers just 15-16, and the Angels crashed to an 11-20 closing mark. As for that wild Card race, the Yankees and Mariners who played incredible baseball ran right past the remaining teams in the league, the Orioles closed 17-14, Royals 16-18, Athletics 12-17, and the Brewers who were right there on August 27 closed a horrible 7-25 down the stretch. The Yankees who trailed the Brewers by 4 in the standings would close 18 games better than Milwaukee in those final five weeks. The Indians and Red Sox in deed made post season, the Angels didn’t, the Rangers and Brewers didn’t, the Mariners and Yankees took their places and as it turned out, those two teams played one of the best division series of all time. Meanwhile in the NL, Atlanta and Cincinnati cruised as they closed in on division titles. The Braves went just 17-15, but with such a large lead, they were not threatened in the NL East division. The teams that were better turned out to be the two teams that were in the bottom two positions of the division, the Mets and Marlins. The Reds went just 15-18, but their story was just like that of the Braves. The drama like in the AL was out west in and the wild card. The dodgers would win the NL West, but it was a dog fight with the Rockies the entire way. Los Angeles closed 18-12 which was just enough to hold off the Rockies who went 19-12. But the race for the Wild Card was one to remember. The Rockies with that 19-12 mark held off the Astros who rebounded to go 19-13 the final five weeks. The Phillies on the other hand went just 10-20 and fell off the pace. The Cubs stayed on the outside of the race into the final week going 18-14, while the Padres went just 15-17. The Expos, who were in the same place as the Yankees, the two teams who were baseball’s best in 1994, could not go on a run like their counterparts in New York. Montreal went 12-19 and was not a factor in the race. Had they gone 25-7 like the Yankees, Montreal would have been right there with Colorado and Houston and in deed the Expos would have won the Wild Card in 1995. Montreal though did not have the talent of the Yankees. Ultimately in the NL, the only change was in the wild Card, the Rockies took the playoff spot that the Phillies gave away with a truly horrific close to the season.
Now let’s move ahead to 1996, looking at where things stood at the end of play on Sunday august 25 of that season. The Yankees were 74-55 and lead the Orioles by 6 in the AL East, the Red Sox were 9 back. The Indians were 77-53 and they lead the White Sox by 8 in the AL Central, the Twins were falling back and trailed by 12. IN the AL West, the Rangers were 75-56 and lead the Mariners by 8, though Seattle tried to make another historic run at the Rangers. As it would turn out, all these teams never gave up their division leads. IN the NL, the Braves were way out in front again in the NL East at 81-48, the Expos trailed by 11. The Astros lead the NL Central at 70-61, the Cardinals trailed by 1.5, the Cubs by 4 and the Reds by 4.5. The Padres held the NL West lead at 72-60, the Dodgers trailed by 1 and the Rockies were 3.5 back. The Padres and Braves would ultimately win division titles, Houston would choke away the NL Central, but more on that in a moment. The AL wild Card was another dog fight. The white Sox at 70-62 and the Orioles at 68-61 were at the top with Chicago’s half game lead on Baltimore. The Mariners were just 2.5 out, the Red Sox 3.5 out and the Twins trailed by 4. The Montreal Expos held the NL wild Card at 70-59, leading the dodgers by a half game, the Cardinals by 2.5, the Rockies by 3, the Cubs by 5.5 and the Reds by 6.
How did things end up in 1996? IN the AL, the Orioles took the Wild Card finishing 20-13 over the final five weeks. The Red Sox were competitive at 19-12, and the Mariners finished 19-13. The White Sox fell off going just 15-15 and the Twins closed 13-19. IN the NL, the Astros who held the Central Division lead closed just 12-19 while the Cardinals went 20-12 and captured the division crown. The Padres would ultimately finished tied with the Dodgers but San Diego claimed the division, the Dodgers the Wild Card berth. The dodgers would finish 20-12 to hold off Montreal, the Expos closed at 18-15. The Reds would close 17-16, the Rockies 15-16, and the Cubs just 12-22 down the stretch.
One factor that many won’t remember is that the Astros and Expos had a major brawl in a game August 12 at Montreal. Several players on each team would receive suspensions and one could argue that that fight cost Houston the NL Central title and Montreal the NL Wild Card.
Now let’s move forward another season and look at where we stood eight days after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. ON Sunday August 24, 1997, the conclusion of games that day the Orioles held the top spot in the AL East at 83-44, while the Yankees trailed by 7, no other team was within 20 games. IN the AL Central, the Indians were having an off year and stood at just 67-60, good for a narrow lead of 4 over the Brewers in the AL Central, the White Sox were still in the race at 4.5 games back. IN the AL West, the mariners were 73-57, leading the Angels by 2.5, the Rangers had faded by this point and were 11 back. In the NL East, the Braves were on top at 80-50, the Marlins trailed by 4 games and the Mets who were fading trailed by 9.5. Montreal, once a contender had a horrible August and were out of the picture at 16 games behind. The Astros held a 69-61 mark to lead the NL Central, the surprising Pirates were 3 back, the Cardinals had fallen to 9.5 out and the Reds 11.5 out. IN the NL West, the Dodgers at 72-58 lead the Giants by 1, the Rockies and Padres were both 10 out. IN the Wild Card races, the Yankees held the AL lead at 77-52, the Angels trailed by 7 and the next closest contender was Milwaukee at 13 games behind. The NL featured more drama, as the Marlins at 75-53 were also the second best team in the entire National League. The Giants trailed by 5 in the Wild Card, the Mets were 5.5 out, and the Pirates were 10 out. The giants and Pirates were closer in their divisional races, whereas the Mets only hope by this stage was to try and run down the Marlins for the Wild Card berth.
How did things end up in 1997? The Orioles would ultimately win the AL East, but they did not play well down the stretch going just 15-20, the Yankees went 19-14 and finished just 2 back and claimed the wild Card berth. The Indians at 19-15 over the final five weeks did enough to win the AL Central, the White Sox 16-15 and Brewers 14-18 remained on the fringes until the final couple weeks of the season. The mariners would win the AL West, closing out with a 17-15 mark, the Angels went just 13-18 and never were a serious threat in either the division or the Wild Card race. In the NL, Atlanta took the NL East finishing strong at 21-11, the Marlins for their part would get the wild Card but they finished just 17-17, while the Mets played well at 18-15. IN the NL Central, the Astros sure looked the part of a team that again wanted to give things away. They would ultimately hang on to win going just 15-17. The Reds tried to make a run going 20-15, while the Pirates faded going 13-19 and the Cardinals never could make a run going just 14-19. The NL West too turned into more than just a two team race and as it turned out, the Rockies nearly came all the way back. The Dodgers who had a 1 game lead would falter going just 16-16, while the Giants went 19-13 to take the division. The Rockies were even better down the stretch drive, going 21-11. As for the two wild card births, the Yankees were hot and never threatened, going 19-14 and easily pulling away from the Angels who had just a 13-18 mark. The Marlins at just 17-17 held on to take the wild Card in the NL. The Giants who were 19-13 became division champs in the west, which meant the Dodgers were the NL West contender for the wild Card, but they were also just .500 at 16-16. The 18-15 Mets were the only team close to the Marlins who closed a bit of ground, but it was not enough. Those Wild Card Marlins would ultimately win the World Series.
The 1998 season is remembered for what turned out in retrospect to be the juiced home run race. AS for the standings with five weeks to go, we look at where things stood following play on Sunday August 23, 1998. The Yankees made a complete joke of the AL East, they stood at 94-33 and were on their way to a championship. The Red Sox were 76-52 and even with that good of a mark, they were 18.5 games out. The Indians were 71-58 and on their way to the AL Central title, leading the Royals by 12.5. IN the AL West, the Angels held the lead at 71-59, the Rangers were 2.5 out and ultimately, the Rangers would come back and win that division title. The Braves held the NL East again by a wide margin at 86-44, leading the Mets by 14. The Astros were 81-50 and lead the Cubs by 9.5 in the NL Central, while in the NL West, the Padres were way out in front at 83-47 and the Giants trailed by 14. All of the NL division leaders were never threatened and ran away to post season births. The AL Wild Card did not feature much drama, the Red Sox found themselves leading the Orioles at the time by 8 and the Rangers by 8.5, the Blue Jays trailed by 10. the NL wild Card was where the drama truly was in 1998 and it would remain such to the very end. The Mets lead the Cubs by 1, the Giants by 3, the next closest team were the Dodgers who never were a factor, 8 games back.
How things ended up in 1998 you ask? The Yankees and Indians easily won their divisions as mentioned above, But the Rangers caught and left the Angels behind in the AL West. The Rangers closed 20-13, the Angels just 14-18. The AL Wild Card got a bit close for comfort though the Red sox held on. Boston went just 16-18, while the Toronto Blue Jays closed on a 22-10 run to end up just 4 games behind Boston in the race. IN the NL, the Braves, Astros, and Padres all cruised to division titles, all three won over 100 games. The drama was the NL wild Card, which was one of the great races in any baseball season before or since. With a week to go, the Mets and Cubs were tied for the Wild Card, the Giants trailed by 5 games. With two days to go, all three teams were in a three-way tie. Ultimately when the season ended September 27, the Giants and Cubs were still tied and needed a playoff game to decide the slot, the Mets were on the outside looking in. The Mets finished just 16-16, whereas the Cubs and Giants closed with winning records, the Cubs 18-14 prior to their playoff game with San Francisco, the Giants 19-13 prior to that same playoff game. Of course the Yankees went on to a dominant post season performance, only the Cleveland Indians scared them as the tribe had a 2-1 ALCS lead before dropping games 4-6.
The 1999 season brought a couple of surprise contenders in the race for the postseason, Arizona and Cincinnati. When games concluded on Sunday August 29, 1999, the Yankees were again on top in the AL East at 80-49, leading the Red sox by 8.5 games and the Blue Jays by 12.5. The Indians were on their way to another AL Central title, a 79-50 record put them 17.5 ahead of the White Sox, while in the AL West, the Rangers enjoyed a 79-52 record and a lead of 7.5 over the surprising Athletics. The Braves lead the NL East at 83-49, but the Mets were on their heels just 3.5 off the pace. The Astros held the NL Central lead at 78-54, but an upstart Cincinnati Reds club was just 1.5 back and tied in the loss column. IN the NL West, the surprising second year Diamondbacks were well in front, the Arizona mark of 78-53 gave the snakes a lead of 8.5 over the Giants, no one else was closer than 17 games. The AL wild Card race was shaping up to be a classic, the Red sox at 72-58 lead the Athletics by 1, and the Blue Jays by 4. The NL wild Card was even more interesting, because the Mets were involved in a chase with the Reds and Astros, who were also in a battle to the end in the NL Central. At that point, the Mets held the wild Card, the Reds were 3 games off the pace, the Giants were all but out of it, 9.5 out and they were never a threat down the stretch.
How things ended in 1999 would again create the same kind of drama as the prior year in the NL. IN the AL, the Yankees and Indians cruised to division titles and the Rangers though given a slight scare at one point by Oakland, would pull away and take the AL West. The Wild Card went to the Red sox, who down the stretch had a mark of 22-10, The Athletics were just 16-16 and the Blue Jays 15-15. The Diamondbacks and Braves had easy finishes for division titles, but Houston found itself looking up at the Reds as late as September 29. Ultimately, the Astros won by a single game over the Reds, who ended up tied with the Mets for the Wild Card and forced to go to a playoff game, which the Mets would win. Down the stretch, the Reds went 21-12 to catch the Mets before their playoff loss, the Mets were just 17-14 before winning that playoff with Cincinnati, while Houston captured the NL Central going 19-11 down the stretch.
The year Y2K brought more baseball surprises, including the struggles of the Cleveland Indians early in the season that proved to make their return to postseason a difficult one. The Expos early in the season were a surprise, though they would eventualy cool off. This season though the drama was more in the AL rather than the NL.
At the end of play on Sunday August 27, 2000, the Yankees lead the AL East at 72-55, the Red Sox would trail by 4 and the Blue Jays by 5.5. The White Sox lead the AL Central at 77-53, the Indians trailed by 8 games. IN the AL West, the Mariners at 71-59 lead the Athletics by 2.5 and the Angels by 4. Over in the NL East, the Braves were in the lead at 78-52, the Mets were just 1 game out, no other team was closer than 14.5 games. IN the NL Central, the Cardinals at 73-57 were on top, the Reds were the next closest team but they were 8.5 behind, while in the NL West, the Giants at 73-55 lead the Diamondbacks by 2.5, the Dodgers by 6 and Rockies by 8. In the AL Wild Card race, the Red Sox held the lead at 68-59, the Indians were just a half game out, the Athletics trailed by 1, the Blue Jays 1.5, the Angels 2.5, and the Tigers who were 64-65 were still just 5 games off the pace. IN the NL, the Mets had a 5.5 game lead on the Diamondbacks and the dodgers trailed by 9.
As for how things finished in 2000, lets first start in the NL where nothing changed. The Braves, Cardinals, and giants won the division titles and the Mets took the Wild Card. The Mets and Braves each finished 17-15 giving Atlanta a narrow division victory. The Cardinals finished strong at 22-10, the Reds for their part did as well at 21-12 in the NL Central, while out in the NL West, the Giants closed at 24-10, the diamondbacks finished just 14-19 and well out of the race.
The AL saw lots of movement in the Wild Card race, but first a look at the divisions. The Yankees went into a slump and coasted into the AL East title going just 15-19 down the stretch. The Red sox were also just 17-18, otherwise they could have caught New York for the eastern division. The slide by Boston also cost them the wild Card. Oakland stormed to the finish at 24-9 giving the Athletics the AL West title and the Mariners who closed at 20-12 took the Wild Card. The White Sox held on to the AL Central division going 18-14, while the Indians ran out of time and missed out on the postseason despite a closing finish at 23-13. The blue Jays who were in the Wild Card race closed at just 15-17, the Angels finished at 15-17 and the Tigers 15-18. Ultimately, the Athletics took the AL West away from the mariners, Seattle took the wild Card berth away from Boston.
IN 2001, five weeks were left on the schedule at the conclusion of games on Sunday August 26. Of course the end of the season would be pushed back a week because of the tragic events on 9-11. That Sunday night in August when games were done saw the Yankees leading the AL East at 76-55, with the Red Sox trailing by 4. In the AL Central, the Indians were 73-57, the Twins trailed by 4.5 and the White Sox by 7.5. The mariners in 2001 were doing like the Yankees in 1998, running away with a record that was in the stratosphere, 94-37. Amazingly, the Athletics 75-56 but a full 19 games out had the third best record in the AL, a game behind the Yankees.
The NL East found the Braves at 71-58 and the Phillies trailing by 2. The NL Central found the Astros on top at 75-55, the Cubs 3 back and the Cardinals down by 5. The Diamondbacks at 75-54 lead the NL West, the Giants trailed by 3.5 and the Dodgers 4.5. In the AL wild Card race, the Athletics lead the Red Sox by 3 games, the Angels and Twins by 6, and the White Sox by 9. The Giants and Cubs were tied for the NL Wild Card at 72-58, the Dodgers trailed by 1, the Cardinals by 2, and the Phillies by 2.5, the 64-65 Padres were 7.5 off the wild Card and never threatened.
Down the stretch in the AL, all teams that held leads would maintain them to the end. The Athletics finished an amazing 27-4 and took the Wild Card, the Mariners finished 22-9 and sailed into an easy AL West title. IN the NL, the Braves held off the Phillies, both going 17-16 down the stretch. The Mets made a run but came up short, ending at 21-11, giving the Braves the NL East. The Astros finished in a tie with the Cardinals in the NL Central, Houston got the division title and the Cardinals the Wild Card. St. Louis finished a strong 23-9 down the stretch, Houston finished 18-14. The Cubs who once held the NL Wild Card lead with the Giants faded to 16-16 closing the 2001 season. The Giants finished 18-14 but not only was it not enough for the wild Card, it was also not enough to catch the Diamondbacks, who closed at 17-16 and held on to win the NL West. The dodgers closed 15-17 and also missed out on the postseason all together.
In 2002, the games of Sunday august 25 took us to the point of where we had just five weeks to play in the season. At that time, a player strike loomed and was somehow averted. At the conclusion of that night, the Yankees again had the AL East lead at 80-48, the Red Sox trailed by 7 and all other teams were 17 or more games behind. The Twins were running away with the AL Central at 78-54, the closest team were the White Sox 16 games back. IN the AL West, Oakland was in the middle of what would become a 20 game winning streak, at the time they were 80-51 leading the AL West, but the Angels and Mariners were only 2 games out. IN the NL East, the Braves had a huge lead at 82-47, the Expos were second 17.5 behind. In the NL Central, the Cardinals lead at 71-57 and the Astros were 3 games behind with the Reds 7.5 out. IN the NL West, the Diamondbacks were on their way to the division title at 83-47, the dodgers were second 8 games out and the Giants were in third 11.5 behind. IN the AL Wild Card race, the Mariners and Angels were in a tie, the Angels 77-52 and the Mariners 78-53, the Red Sox were 3.5 out of the lead. In the NL Wild Card race, the dodgers had the lead at 75-55, the Giants were 3.5 off the lead, while the Astros were 6 games off the Wild Card lead, they were closer in the race for the central division.
When the season ended, the AL teams remained in their same places for the division titles and the Angels would pull away slightly from the Mariners and Red Sox for the Wild Card. The Angels down the stretch were 22-11, the Red Sox were 20-14, the Mariners 15-16. The Athletics it should be noted went 23-8 and two teams had horrific finishes, the Orioles went just 4-29 and the Tigers just 6-25. In the NL, the division leaders remained unchanged, but the Giants did end up taking the Wild Card berth, going 24-8, the Dodgers were just 17-17 and the Astros were 15-17 and the division champion diamondbacks also slid to the finish at 15-17. The Cardinals were the best NL team over that stretch, going 26-8. Both wild Card teams would play in the World Series, the Angels and Giants both rewarded for their ultimate late season success.
In 2003 at the conclusion of play on Sunday August 24, the Yankees lead in the AL East at 79-49, the Red Sox trail by 5. The AL Central featured a fun race with the White Sox in the lead at 69-62, the Royals 1 back, the Twins trailed by 1.5. In the AL West, the mariners lead at 76-54 with the Athletics just 1 game out. IN the NL East, the Braves were on their way to another division title at 84-46, the rest of the division while not near the braves, the second place Phillies trailed by 13.5, were all part of a crazy Wild Card race. The Astros and Cardinals had the NL Central lead at 68-62, the Cubs a half game back were 67-62. In the NL West, the Giants were on top at 78-51 and on their way to a title, the Diamondbacks were 10.5 behind. The AL Wild Card at the time had the Red Sox and Athletics in the lead at 75-55, the next closest teams were the Royals 7.5 and the Twins 8 games behind. The NL was the ultimate horse race, the Phillies were 70-59, the Marlins were a half game out, the Astros and Cardinals who were sharing the central division lead as well as the Diamondbacks were all 2.5 back, the Cubs and Dodgers trailed by 3 and the Expos trailed by 4. At one point four days later, all of these teams would be within 2.5 games of one another.
How it all played out would be one for the books. IN the AL, the Yankees held on to their lead in the AL East, but the Twins came back to claim the AL Central and the Athletics would overtake Seattle for the AL West. The Red Sox would also outplay the Mariners and claim the AL Wild Card. Down the stretch, the Yankees were 22-12, the Red Sox 20-12, the Twins 23-9, and the Athletics 21-11 to get into postseason play. The Mariners were 17-15, the Royals 16-17, and the White Sox 17-14 to conclude the season.
IN the NL, the Braves and Giants went on to win their division titles, the Cubs would come out of the scramble to claim the NL Central and the Marlins would do likewise to claim the NL Wild Card. The Marlins finished 21-11 and the Cubs 21-12 to earn their postseason births. The Astros were the best of the rest down the stretch at 19-13, the dodgers went 18-15, the Cardinals 17-15, Expos 17-16, Diamondbacks 16-16, and Phillies 16-17. The Marlins of course had memorable victories over the Giants, Cubs, and Yankees to claim their second World Series.
ON Sunday August 29, 2004, the standings with five weeks to go showed the Astros making a strong late season push. But we start with the AL East, the Yankees again in the lead at 81-49, the Red Sox trailed by 4.5. In the AL Central, the Twins had the lead at 72-58, the 66-66 Indians were 7 back and the White Sox trailed by 8. IN the Al West, the Athletics had the lead at 77-53, the Angels trailed by 2 and the surprising Rangers were 3.5 behind. The Braves had the NL East lead at 75-54, the Marlins were 8.5 behind and the Phillies 10.5. IN the NL Central, the Cardinals were on their way to the division title at 86-44, the Cubs were next 15 games out, the Astros were 19 behind, they were focused totally on the Wild Card. IN the NL West, the Dodgers were 76-54, the Giants and Padres trailed by 5 games. The AL Wild Card had the 76-53 Red Sox in the lead, the Angels were 1.5 out, and the Rangers 3 out. The Indians were more than 10 games out and not a factor. The NL Wild Card had the Cubs and padres at 71-59 and the Giants at 72-60 in a tie, the 66-62 Marlins and 67-63 Astros were both just 4 back and the Phillies were 6 back.
How it all ended, the Yankees and Twins would go on to division titles, but the Athletics would miss the playoffs all together as the Angels ultimately won the AL West. The Red Sox would end up claiming the Wild Card berth. The Red Sox were 22-11 down the stretch, the Athletics just 14-18. The Angels winning the west thanks to the Oakland slide were 17-15 and the Rangers finished the season 16-17. IN the NL, the Braves and Cardinals held their division leads, the Dodgers tried to give away but held on as well in the NL West. The Astros would be the story of September in the NL claiming the Wild Card berth. The Astros finished 25-7 to take the Wild Card, the Phillies had a serious push as well going 21-11 and the Giants went 19-11. The Cubs finished 18-14, the Marlins 17-17, and the padres 16-16.
IN 2005, the Astros would again be a second half story. First, how things were in baseball at the conclusion of games on Sunday August 28, the night when America was preparing to see what would turn out to be the horror of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and southern Mississippi.
The AL East lead belong to the Red Sox at 74-54, the first time since 1997 that this late in the season the Yankees were not in first. New York trailed by 1.5 games. In the AL Central, the White Sox were 79-48, the Indians trailed by 8 games. IN the AL West, the Athletics were in first at 73-56, the Angels were a half game back. In the NL East, the Braves were 74-56, the Phillies trailed by 4.5, the Marlins by 5, the Mets by 6, and the Nationals by 7. The NL Central again featured the Cardinals way out in front at 83-48, the Astros were 14.5 back but in the Wild Card race. In the NL West, the question was if anyone would finish with a winning record. The Padres at 64-65 were in first and lead the Diamondbacks and Dodgers by 5.5 games, the Giants by 7, the Rockies by 13.5. The AL Wild Card race had the Yankees lead at 73-56, the Angels were a half game back and the Indians 1 back, the Twins at 5.5 back were on the outside. The NL for a third straight season had a crazy race for the Wild Card, the Phillies at the time in the lead at 70-61, the Marlins a half game back, Mets and Astros 1.5 behind, the Nationals 2.5 and the 64-67 Brewers were on the outside 6 games off the lead.
When it was all over, the Red sox and Yankees finished in a tie, the Yankees were given the division title and Boston the Wild Card based on season finish against each other. The White Sox held off a spirited finish by the Indians to claim the AL Central and the Angels again overtook the Athletics to claim the AL West title. Down the stretch, the Yankees were 22-11 and the Red Sox 21-13. The Indians were 20-11 and the White Sox 20-15 to conclude the season, while the Angels 22-10 outperformed the Athletics at 15-18. In the NL, The Cardinals and Braves went on to division titles, the padres at just 82-80 claimed the NL West and set a record for most losses by a team that made it into postseason play. The Astros 21-11 to claim the NL Wild Card were a tick better than the Phillies at 18-13. The Brewers finished 17-14, the Mets 15-17, while both the Marlins and Nationals finished just 14-18.
In 2006, the standings at the end of the day on Sunday August 27 saw the Yankees back in the AL East lead at 77-52, the Red Sox trailed by 6.5 games and the Blue Jays were 8.5 behind. The Tigers were out in front at 82-49 in the AL Central, the Twins trailed by 5 and the White Sox by 5.5. The Athletics at 74-56 lead the AL West by 5.5 over the Angels and the Rangers were 8 back. In the NL East, the Braves for the first time since the Wild Card era began were not in first, the Mets had the NL East lead at 79-49, the Phillies were in second 14.5 back. The Cardinals at 69-60 lead the NL Central, the Reds were 3 out, the Astros 7 out, and the Brewers 7.5. In the NL West, The Dodgers were 68-62, the padres were 2 out and the Giants 3.5, the Diamondbacks 5 back and Rockies 7 back were on the outside. The AL Wild Card had the Twins in the lead at 76-53, the White Sox a half game back and the Red Sox 5.5 out, the Blue Jays trailed by 7.5 and the Angels by 8. In the NL Wild Card race, the Reds at just 67-64 had a half game lead over the padres, the Phillies were 1 back, the Giants 2, Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 3.5, Astros 4, Brewers 4.5, Braves 5, and Rockies 5.5 were all within range of the lead.
When the season had ended, the Yankees claimed the AL East, but the slumping Tigers gave away the AL Central to the Twins, Detroit would settle for a Wild Card berth which was enough to get them still to the World Series. The Athletics would go on to win the AL West. In the NL, the Cardinals took a weak record to the NL Central title and ultimately the World Series title, while the Padres and Dodgers both got in out in the NL West, San Diego as the division winner and the Dodgers as the Wild Card, the Mets by far were the best NL team as they cruised to the NL East win. Down the stretch, the Angels had the best record in the AL at 20-11, the Twins at 20-13 caught the Tigers and held off the White Sox. The Athletics were also 19-13, compared to the Red Sox at just 15-17, White Sox at 14-18 and Tigers at 13-18. In the NL, the padres had the best finish at 22-10, the Dodgers at 20-12 kept pace and joined their southern California neighbors in postseason. The Astros again made a late push but fell short this time at 19-12 and the Phillies did the same at 20-13. The Reds stumbled down the stretch at 13-18.
The 2007 season provided some of the best finishes in recent memory and proved again that you have to play every day with heart and effort. At the end of the day on Sunday August 26, the Red Sox at 80-51 lead the AL East by 7.5 over the Yankees. The Indians at 72-57 held a 2.5 lead in the AL Central over the Tigers and the Twins trailed by 5.5 games. In the AL West, the Angels lead at 76-54, while the Mariners trailed by 2 games. In the NL East, the Mets were in the lead at 73-56, the Phillies were 6 out and the Braves 7. The Cubs lead the NL Central at just 66-63, the Brewers trailed by 1.5, the Cardinals were 2 out, with the Reds 6.5 and Astros 9 games back on the outside. The NL West featured the 74-57 diamondbacks in first despite allowing more runs than they had scored, the padres were 3 games out, the Dodgers and Rockies both trailed by 6.5. In the AL Wild Card race, the mariners had the lead at 73-55, Yankees were 2 back, the Tigers 4, Twins 7, and Blue Jays 9 games off the pace. IN the NL, the padres had the Wild Card lead at 70-59, the Phillies trailed by 3, the Rockies and Dodgers both 3.5 back, followed by the Braves 4, Brewers 5.5, and Cardinals 6 games off the pace.
How did things end up? IN the AL, the Indians, Red Sox, and Angels would all hang on to win their divisions. The mariners would fade and ultimately the Yankees would have the best stretch run to claim the Wild Card, their first since 1997. The Indians had the best AL record the final five weeks at 24-9, the Yankees were 22-10. The teams involved in the Wild Card chase outside New York had less success, the Tigers and Blue Jays just 18-14, Mariners 15-19 and the mariners 12-20.
The NL story was one of great comebacks for the Rockies and Phillies, major letdowns for the Mets and Padres, the Cubs held on to claim the Central division holding off the Brewers and Cardinals. In the NL East, the Phillies down the stretch went 22-11 to overtake the Mets who were just 15-18. IN the NL Central, the Cubs finished 19-14 and the Brewers were 18-14, the Cardinals closed just 15-20. IN the wild NL West, the Diamondbacks finished 16-15 and took the division flag. The padres finished19-14 and were caught by the amazing Rockies at 22-10 to force a playoff, which the Rockies won in dramatic fission over San Diego. The listed records do not count the playoff game between the Rockies and Padres. Note too that going into the final weekend of the 2007 season, a scenario was in play that would have had the Phillies, Mets, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and padres all finish with the same record. Ties would have had to been broken in both the NL West and East, then after those were resolved, a three-way Wild Card tie would have then needed to be resolved.
At the conclusion of the games for Sunday August 24, 2008, we had a new look at the top of the AL East. From 1995 to 2007, the Yankees had the lead 9 times, the Red Sox three times in 1995, 2005 and 2007, while the Orioles had the lead in 1997. IN 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays were in first place with a record of 79-50, the Red Sox were 4.5 back and the Yankees 9.5 back. The Twins and White Sox both at 74-56 had the AL Central lead, the Tigers were 10 out. The Angels held the AL West lead at 79-50 and would cruise to the division title, the Rangers were in second 17 games out. The NL East lead was held by the Mets at 72-59, the Phillies were just a half game out and the Marlins trailed by 5. The Cubs were out in front in the NL Central at 80-50, the Brewers were 4.5 back and the Cardinals trailed by 8. The Diamondbacks lead the NL West at 68-62, the Dodgers were 3 out, the Rockies trailed by 8.
The AL Wild Card lead belonged to the Red Sox at 75-55, the twins and White Sox both being tied for the AL Central were also counted in the Wild Card standings, both 1 back, while the Yankees were 5 off the pace and the Blue Jays were 8 back. The NL again had a tight Wild Card race, the Brewers held the lead at 76-55, the Cardinals were 3.5 out, Phillies 4.5, Marlins 9, and the Astros 9.5 out.
As the season concluded in the AL, the Rays and Angels won their divisions. The Twins and White Sox ended up tied and the White Sox would win a playoff to claim the AL Central. The Red Sox would maintain their claim to the Wild Card as they were not seriously challenged. IN the NL, the Phillies again past the mets to claim the NL East and the Dodgers would come back to overtake Arizona and win the NL West. The Cubs would take the NL Central and the Brewers would hold off several teams including the Mets and a charge at one point from the Astros to take the Wild Card berth. IN the AL down the stretch, all teams that needed to play well did so accept the Twins and White Sox, who both were under.500, but a large division lead did not allow any opportunity for other teams to climb back into the race. IN the NL, the Phillies went 21-11 to take the eastern division, the Marlins were 17-13, the Mets 17-14. The Astros had the best record in the NL at 20-11, but it was not enough to catch the Brewers, who did finish just 14-17 and the Cardinals would close out just 13-17. The Dodgers went 19-13 to capture the NL West, the Diamondbacks went just 14-18 as they would give away the division lead.
The 2009 season started later than any regular season since 1992, opening with the Sunday night game on April 5, all other teams opened April 6 or 7. So at the end of the day on Sunday August 30, with 35 days left on the regular season calendar, the standings had a familiar look in the AL East, the Yankees were on top. New York had a record of 82-48, good for a 6 game lead on the Red Sox, the Rays were 11.5 games out. The Tigers lead the AL Central at 69-60, the Twins were 4.5 back and the White Sox 6. The Angels held the AL West lead at 77-52, the Rangers were 5 games out. IN the NL East, the Phillies were on top at 75-53, a position they did not enjoy at this stage the prior two seasons, the marlins and Braves were both 8 games behind. The Cardinals at 77-55 were pulling away in the NL Central, no team was closer than 10 games, with the Cubs sitting in second. IN the NL West, the Dodgers at 78-53 had the lead, the Rockies were making another charge and at this point were 6 games back and tied with the Giants. The Red Sox held the AL wild Card lead at 76-54, the Rangers were 3.5 out and the Rays were 5.5 out. The NL Wild Card was shaping up to be a potentially tight race yet again, the Giants and Rockies were tied at 72-59, the Braves and Marlins were both 3.5 games out and the cubs trailed by 5.5 games.
How did things end up in 2009? IN the AL, the Yankees and Angels won their divisions with Boston taking the Wild Card. The Tigers late collapse forced a second straight playoff in the AL Central. The Twins who lost the year before to the White Sox, edged the Tigers in extra innings to take the division crown. IN the case of the teams trying to catch the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels, it was as much about those teams playing well over .500 as it was the chasing oppositions in ability to play well, the Rays and Rangers both were under .500 to close the season. But this story could not be more dramatically told without looking at the finish by the Twins, 21-11 before their playoff with Detroit, while the Tigers went just 17-16, including three straight losses as they fell into that playoff at the Metrodome. IN the NL meanwhile, the Phillies and Cardinals had easy division titles, the Dodgers would have to hang on against a hard charging Colorado Rockies club. The Rockies for their part took the Wild Card with a finish of 20-11, the Giants went just 16-15 and the Dodgers 17-14. The Phillies did not play the best ball in the NL East, but their finish of 18-16 was enough to hold off the Braves 18-14 and the Marlins 19-13.
At the conclusion of play on Sunday August 29, 2010, the AL East was a 3-team race, the Rays and Yankees were both 80-50, the Red Sox were 6.5 behind. IN the AL Central, the 75-56 Twins held a 4.5 game lead over the White Sox and the Tigers were out of it by this stage, 10 games behind. IN the AL West, the Rangers at 73-57 held a division lead at this point of the season, for the first time since the same date in 1999, the Athletics were the closest threat at 7.5 games behind and Oakland never made a serious run. The Braves held the NL East lead at 75-55, the Phillies were 2 back and the marlins who never really could get momentum going were 9.5 out. IN the NL Central, the Reds were 75-55 and in first at this stage for the first time since 1995, the Cardinals 5 games back were the only threat. IN the NL West, the Padres were 76-53 and it appeared in route to the division title, but they were beginning what would become an epic 10 game slide, a slide that would prove fatal. At the time, San Diego lead the Giants by 5 games and the Rockies by 8. The AL wild Card lead was held by the Rays and Yankees who were tied for the eastern division lead, the Red Sox were 6.5 out and the only serious contender with the White Sox next 10 games behind. For the NL Wild Card, the Phillies at 73-57 held the lead, the Giants trailed by 1.5, the Cardinals by 3, the Rockies by 4.5, the Dodgers by 6.5, and the Marlins by 7.5.
How things ended up would be a memorable conclusion in the NL. IN the AL, little changed, the Rangers and Twins took their divisions, the Rays took the east by a game and the Yankees took the Wild Card. IN the NL, the Padres collapse created a dramatic race that brought back reminders of 2007. Going into the final weekend, the Padres and Giants were in play for the NL West, the Braves and Phillies for the NL East, and all four teams were in the Wild Card race. When all was done on the final day, the Braves took the Wild Card after the Phillies again came back to claim a division title. The giants edged the Padres on the final day to claim the NL West and send San Diego home. Had the padres won the game, the teams would have headed down to Petco Park for an extra playoff game on Monday to settle the division race. Down the stretch, no team in the AL East race played well, the Rays 16-16, Red Sox 15-16, and Yankees 15-17. The Twins closed well and thus the white Sox had no chance in the central division, the Rangers did likewise in the AL West going 17-15. IN the NL, the Phillies closed an incredible 24-8 to take the eastern flag, the Braves at just 16-16 settled for the Wild Card though they nearly made the giants and Padres race out west meaningless as they appeared to be ready to miss the postseason all together, foreshadowing what was to come a year later. The giants 20-11 were the best closing team out west and they ultimately would take that winning effort all the way to the World Series title, the padres closed 14-19.
In 2011, the schedule took a different look, the final day being the memorable Wednesday of September 28, so the point in the schedule to compare for 2011 would be at the conclusion of games on Wednesday night, august 24. At that time, the Red Sox were in the AL East lead at 79-50, the Yankees were 1 back and the Rays 8.5 back at 70-58. IN the AL Central, the tigers were 70-59 and held a 6 game lead over the Indians who were just 63-64. The Rangers were again in the lead out west at 74-57, the Angels were 2.5 behind. In the NL East, the Phillies at 83-45 were way in front, the Braves 6.5 out were the closest threat and they would not make a run. The Brewers had a 10 game NL Central lead at 78-54 over the Cardinals, while the 71-59 diamondbacks had a lead out west of 2 over the Giants. The Yankees had the AL Wild Card lead at 77-50, the Rays and Angels were both 7.5 games out. IN the NL Wild Card, the 78-53 Braves enjoyed a lead of 8.5 games over the Giants, the Cardinals were 10.5 games out.
How it all ended up? The 2011 season is not remembered for the great division races, it was all about the Wild Card in its final season as a one-team birth. IN the AL, the Yankees would take the East going 20-15, the Tigers and Rangers took the other divisions going 25-8 and 22-9 respectably. But the story was what happened in Tampa and what did not happen in Boston. The Rays stormed to a finish of 21-13 and took the Wild Card, while the Red sox slid all the way out of the postseason going just 11-22. IN the NL< the same story would play out. The Phillies, Brewers, and Diamondbacks all took their divisions going 19-15, 18-12, and 23-9 respectably. But the Cardinals would come all the way back to take the wild Card, also going 23-9, the Giants went 17-15 and the Braves who appeared to be on their way would finish just 11-20 and like the Red Sox, miss postseason all together.
The 2012 schedule was like that used in 2011, so when the games concluded on Wednesday August 29, the Yankees were 75-55 and leading the Orioles by 3.5 and the Rays by 4 in the AL East. The White Sox at 72-57 lead the Tigers by 3 in the AL Central, while the Rangers at 77-53 lead the west by 4.5 over the Athletics. IN the NL, the eastern lead was with the Nationals at 78-51, the Braves were the only team in range 5 games out. IN the central, the 80-52 Reds had an 8 game lead on the Cardinals and the Pirates were 9 out. Out west, the 73-57 Giants had a lead of 3.5 over the Dodgers. This was the first season where each league had two wild cards, those two teams to play a 1-game playoff. The Athletics at 72-57 and Orioles at 71-58 had the two slots, the Rays were a half game behind the Orioles, the tigers trailed by 2 and the Angels were 2.5 out. IN the NL, the 74-57 Braves and 71-59 Cardinals held the two slots, while the Pirates were 1 game behind St. Louis, the Dodgers were 1.5 behind.
When the season ended, things looked quite different. The Athletics stormed back and took the AL West from the Rangers, Texas would join the Orioles in the wild Card playoff. The Tigers came back to claim the AL Central, the white Sox missed out all together, the Yankees would take the East. IN the NL, the Cardinals and Braves would hang on to the two wild Card births, the Pirates had a horrible ending to their season and the Dodgers ran out of gas, the Nationals, Reds, and Giants would all have relatively easy division titles. IN the AL, the Orioles guaranteed a place in postseason going 22-11, the Yankees 20-12, Tigers 19-14 and Athletics 22-11 all had strong finishes. The Rangers closed cold going just 16-16 before losing the playoff to Baltimore. The White Sox closed just 13-20, but the lack of effort award went to the Red Sox who went just 7-24. IN the NL, the Braves 20-11, Nationals 20-13, Cardinals 17-15, Reds 17-13, and Giants 21-11 all had winning stretch runs to postseason. The Dodgers would close 16-15, while the Pirates closed a disastrous 9-23. Pittsburgh could not be accused of lacking effort, unlike the 10-21 Marlins, who were the NL version of the Red Sox in 2012.
So now let’s look at where we stood going into the games of Monday August 26, with 35 days left on the MLB schedule here in 2013. The Red Sox lead the AL East at 77-55, the Rays are just a game out and the Orioles trail by 5.5 with the Yankees 7.5 out. IN the AL Central the Tigers appear to be pulling away with a 77-53 mark, the Indians trail by 6. In the AL West, the Rangers are on top at 75-55, the athletics are just 2.5 out. At this point, it appears that the loser of the East race between the Rays and Red Sox will get one wild Card, who gets the second birth, Oakland, Baltimore, Cleveland? Do the royals or Yankees have a chance? They do if they go on a 23-9 or 25-7 kind of run that we have seen teams do in the past, 2011 Cardinals, 2004 Astros, 2000-01-02 Athletics, 1995 Yankees. Do one of the leading teams have an ultimate collapse out of contention, see the 1995 Brewers while in the AL going just 7-25 or the Pirates in 2012 going just 9-23. Going into play on Monday, the Rays had the top wild Card berth at 74-54 and the Athletics held the second slot at 72-57. Very much in contention just behind Oakland are the Indians at 71-59 and Orioles at 70-59. One cannot completely dismiss the Yankees at 69-61. The Royals, who have many games remaining with both the Indians and Tigers, can still in theory make a move, KC came into play Monday at 65-64 and as the 1995 Yankees taught us, a team in the KC position could still make a move with a very strong finish. Those Yankees were 4 under and over the final 35 days closed 18 games over .500. If the royals went 24-9 over their final 33 games, they could be a surprising contender.
IN the NL, the Braves at 78-52 have a 13 game lead in the East. No team has had a lead of more than 10.5 slept away at this point in the season from any form of playoff berth, the Braves know that story from 2011 as that was the distance made up by the Cardinals. The NL Central has been the race to watch and if there were only one wild card, someone would go home unhappy. As it is, the Cardinals lead at 76-54 in a flat footed tied with the Pirates, while the Reds come into play Monday 74-57 and 2.5 out. In the NL West, the 76-54 dodgers have opened up a 9.5 game lead on the Diamondbacks. While the Dodgers pitching has been amazing during this incredible run, the lack of offensive production could still be a problem if their pitching suddenly hits a cold streak and the Diamondbacks while way out of the race, have a schedule against weak western teams and a closing series with the underperforming Nationals to end the season. This is not at all a commentary that would suggest a diamondbacks run to the NL West title, perhaps if Arizona had been playing hotter baseball like those 2011 Cardinals or 1995 Mariners, it would at least give Dodger fans reason to pause. If Arizona doesn’t set a fire offensively this week though, the chances of them having any hope to catch Los Angeles will ultimately fade. The diamondbacks do still have some faint wild Card hopes, because coming into Monday trailing the Reds by just 7 games, they do have a shot because of the schedule maker. While Arizona has an easier time of it, the Reds have two series left with the Pirates and two with the Cardinals. This rough stretch is offset for Cincinnati by having one series against the Astros, but very bad teams sometimes do surprising things at home in September when young guys are called up from the minors, guys who play with all-out effort in hopes of securing a spot on a big league team the following season.
All that said and looking at history, one would and reasonably should assume that the 2013 drama will unfold in the American League. But it is too early to completely rule out some sort of closing push by an unexpected team in the National league, if the right sequence played out, the Diamondbacks could be that one team that has a closing finish on the outside, not unlike a race horse that seemed all but done on the back stretch.
Some times when you are busy with things, a story slips by your attention. This was true for me, as I missed the news on June 12 that the Arizona Diamondbacks will play as host to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first two games of the 2014 regular season in Sydney, Australia March 22-23. I give baseball a huge round of applauds for making this move and I only wish baseball would do even more.
One thing that does bother some though, is the huge amount of travel and the odd start to the season that it creates for two teams, while no impact is felt by the remaining teams in the league. There is also the issue of teams playing their very first game when they may not be in peak performance conditions many thousands of miles from home and the like. So what follows, while sounding very radicle to some, is a solution that might yet be a way in the future for baseball to again create additional buzz, simply by how it produces a schedule.
What is the Deal plan one is surely asking? Simple, all teams play an international series at the same time. You accomplish this by using the week before the All Star game as your global baseball event. The 2019 calendar will be exactly like it is for 2013, so let’s in this example simply use 2019 as a model. Teams would play games through Sunday July 7, at which time all teams would have between three and four off/travel days. All teams would play a three game series against each other at an international site. Depending on scheduling purposes, some series may have one team designated as the home club for all three games, some series might be a split with one team home for two games and playing the third as the visitor.
Many major world cities have grounds that can be transformed into temporary baseball venues, cricket facilities would certainly serve such a purpose as is going to be done for the 2014 series in Sydney. Cities that have soccer style setups that are similar to American football could also host games if they are convertible to baseball, like so many of the stadiums built in North America during the 1960’s and ‘70’s. So let’s have some fun and put together some potential matchups. Obviously the rosters of the teams in MLB will be quite different in 2019 and there is always a chance by then that we could be talking about 32 instead of 30 teams. But for now, let’s simply focus on what we do know and produce a potential world map of baseball games for the 2019 season.
July 7, all teams play their final games in North America before traveling out of the nation. The schedule proposed here will feature six divisional matchups, one per division, six interdivisional matchups, one per division combo of west/central, west/east, and central/east in each league, plus three interleague matchups that feature a team from all six divisions. My focus was to put games in nations that have established or are trying to establish baseball tradition, many of these nations have successfully sent players to perform in the other major US sports, particularly basketball and hockey. Four series are scheduled in Latin American Nations, Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Eight are scheduled for Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. The remaining three series are set for South Africa, South Korea, and Australia.
Proposed game schedule.
Thursday July 11, the Yankees and Giants open an interleague series at Panama City.
Thursday July 11, the Mets and Tigers open an interleague series at Rio de Janeiro
Thursday July 11, the Marlins and Braves open a series at Buenos Aries.
Thursday July 11, the Dodgers and Padres open a series at Caracas.
Thursday July 11, the Mariners and Royals open a series at Rome.
Thursday July 11, the Brewers and Reds open a series at Berlin.
Thursday July 11, the Astros and Blue Jays open a series at London.
Thursday July 11, the Red Sox and Orioles open a series at Dublin.
Thursday July 11, the Cubs and Nationals open a series at Paris.
Thursday July 11, the Pirates and Rangers open an interleague series at Stockholm.
Thursday July 11, the Cardinals and Rockies open a series at Madrid.
Thursday July 11, the White Sox and Twins open a series at Amsterdam.
Thursday July 11, the Rays and Indians open a series at Johannesburg.
Friday July 12, the Athletics and Angels open a series at Melbourne.
Friday July 12, the Phillies and Diamondbacks open a series at Seoul.
Note that the Friday games in South Korea and Australia would start late Thursday evening or very early Friday United States time.
Saturday July 13, all series conclude accept those in Melbourne and Seoul.
Sunday July 14, the Melbourne and Seoul series are concluded, those two games will start early though, no later than 11:30 AM in Melbourne, and 12:30 PM in Seoul.
The all-star game events would be postponed a day, so that Home Run Derby would not take place until Tuesday July 16, the game itself Wednesday July 17, then another off day and finally games resume July 19. For most players not involved with the All Star game, this would simply serve as more time off to recover from the travel and to make the process fair for all involved, all-star rosters could be expanded even more than the norm.
Let’s now look at the average weather conditions for each of these cities for the dates of the games to be played. While most are in summer or near the equator, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires are in winter. Below is average high temperature, average low temperature, and local sunset time for each of the 15 cities in this proposed event. The average is based on the three combined days of July 11-13 accept July 12-14 for Melbourne and Seoul.
Panama City: 93, 70, 6:42
Madrid: 89, 61, 9:46
Rome: 87, 61, 8:45
Seoul: 82, 70, 7:54
Caracas: 81, 66, 6:54
Rio de Janeiro: 78, 65, 5:24
Paris: 75, 58, 9:51
London: 74, 57, 9:14
Berlin: 73, 55, 9:26
Stockholm: 71, 56, 9:54
Amsterdam: 71, 53, 9:59
Dublin: 66, 53, 9:49
Johannesburg:, 61, 42, 5:33
Buenos Aires: 58, 46, 6:00
Melbourne: 56, 43, 5:19
Weather data provided at www.weather.com
Now will this happen, it’s highly unlikely, 99.9% chance that this would not happen in 2019. But maybe in the 2030 or 2035 season, when I’m into my early 60’s, maybe then we see MLB on a global stage like never before. But then maybe by 2030, we see a global minor league circuit and how better to promote the game then by having leagues that look and feel like our current minor leagues, only have them based on various parts of the globe.
From 1901 to 1960, 16 teams called Major League Baseball home. Between 1961 and 1977, a period covering 17 seasons, 10 franchises were added. It would be 16 more seasons until the Rockies and Marlins joined in 1993, followed by the Diamondbacks and what were then known as the Devil Rays five years later in 1998. While the Devil may be out of the Rays, there is no doubt that the devil is always in the details, or in this instance, those details that are not yet known as to baseball’s future expansion potential. But whereas it seemed possible in 2002 that contraction would occur, there are clearly no arguments in my view that support future contraction and yet several arguments that support future expansion.
Every time expansion takes place, there are those who say that the talent is watered down further in the Major Leagues, but can anyone genuinely say that our baseball of 2013 is more watered down than it was during the golden age? During the golden age, blacks were just beginning to be allowed to play in our highest level of pro ball and the concept of international players, much less international scouting and the draft were ideas that only the brightest outside the box thinking types could have conceived. Now look at where our game is today, the Great American Pastime has become the great global game and all signs are that it will only continue to grow all over the world. Sure there have always been the baseball hot beds like Venezuela and the Dominican, but look at what developments have taken place in nations like the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, all who have contributed a great deal of talent to our top level of baseball. I have not even mentioned Japan, which had 0 MLB players in 1994, now you are likely to find a player from Japan on every single organizational roster and more than just one in some cases. Then there are the many Cuban players who have defected and come to the US to play. If and when relations are ever more open between the two bitter rival governments, there will be a flood of talented players coming across the Florida straits seeking big league money and big league exposure.
Then there is Europe, which many baseball experts who follow the international game believe is the future growth spurt of an even deeper international talent pool. It would not be surprising at all to see nations like Italy, Germany, France, and Spain get to where the Dutch are today and that can only mean one thing, even more big league capable players seeking work.
What does this mean for the future of MLB? It simply means that the game which is expanding globally will eventually have to expand to meet fan and player demands if our professional baseball circuit is to maintain its clear status as the world premier league of top notch professional competition. Now, I present my big and bold expansion proposal.
The expansion would be a record for MLB, six teams at one time. Some of you are now taking a big gulp and catching your breath, really, six teams? But let’s put this in some perspective. IN 1969 when four teams joined, they increased the size of the league from 20 to 24 teams, or an increase of 20% in size. Each team took 30 players in the expansion draft, meaning each of the 20 existing organizations lost six players to the new kids on the block. IN the 1977 expansion that added just two teams in the AL, they too took 30 players each. Since they only drafted from AL rosters, the impact was similar for those 12 existing AL teams, losing five players each. The impact on existing teams was much less in the 1993 and 1998 expansions because for one thing, more existing teams were available to be picked from. So in 1992, the Rockies and Marlins each added 36 players, six more than in prior expansions, but the impact was just three players from each NL organization, three players from eight AL organizations, and 2 players from the remaining six AL members. The 1997 expansion saw the Rays and Diamondbacks each take 35 players, this time as before, some organizations lost three players and others lost just two. Given the fact that we now have 30 teams plus all of the affiliated minor league clubs that are part of the farm systems, expanding by six teams and letting each team take 25 players would not be asking all that much. If each new team took 25 players, that would mean a loss of 5 players from each existing organization, which would be no more impactful than what we saw in the 1969 expansion. Furthermore, increasing from 30 to 36 teams is mathematically exactly the same as increasing from 20 to 24 teams, in that you expand the size of MLB by 20%.
Where to put these six teams? Now there are several approaches that one can take when thinking of where and how to expand. Fans and critics will take note and offer their own ideas and responses, but when reading this. in my view, what follows is a sound judgment in terms of my philosophy of expansion.
I’ve read a couple articles recently that said if baseball expands, Brooklyn should be considered and I agree, given the history of baseball in that location. But the one thing I would say that would counter this view, is the fact that baseball is in more dual markets than any other sport. The NBA has two teams each in Los Angeles and New York, assuming the Kings stay in Sacramento, they are not too far from Oakland which is home of the Warriors, though Sacramento is not considered part of the Bay Area market like San Jose and thus the reason San Jose is much favored over Sacramento to land the Athletics assuming they do eventually move from Oakland. The NFL has three dual markets, Oakland/San Francisco, Washington/Baltimore, and New York. The NHL has a dual market with Los Angeles/Anaheim and a tri market with New jersey and the two New York teams. Baseball has five dual markets, Los Angeles/Anaheim, San Francisco/Oakland, New York, Washington/Baltimore, and Chicago. Add to that fact that Philadelphia is right between DC and New York, San Diego is not that far from Anaheim, and Milwaukee is not far from Chicago, and you quickly see that 15 teams or one half of all of MLB is concentrated in five geographic regions, more than any other sports league. Those facts which are very strait forward doom the Brooklyn idea.
So where does MLB go? Go west was a phrase heard during the mass expansion of the United States and North America in general, I apply that in part to baseball, which has cities in Portland and Vancouver that both seem ready to support the great game. Vancouver was a candidate for the 1998 teams but was quickly passed over for the Florida Sun Coast and Desert southwest. Portland has also been mentioned for years as a future expansion or relocation site and it is time that baseball put steaks down in a city that has proven it will support a team that tries to put a good product out there for the fans, see the Portland Trail Blazers for that example from pro hoops.
City number three, San Antonio. The Rangers and Padres series at the end of spring training drew 35 thousand on the same night the Spurs were playing at home, then 40 thousand for a 1PM start the next day, at a place that can only be described as the most temporary baseball setting imaginable, the Alamodome, which was never built or intended for baseball of any kind, period! This would provide a third team in Texas and it is crazy that the Lone Star State, home to a population only smaller than California does not have a third team. The Dallas Fort Worth metro is after all much larger in population than Washington/Baltimore and one could genuinely argue that a second team could also go to DFW, though I don’t propose such a move.
My other three teams go in the eastern region of the continent, one back to Montreal which MLB never gave a fair chance and as we now see in Miami, the marlins owner cares nothing about the fans and he was the nail in the coffin for the Expos in 2001 when his ownership forced the clock to strike midnight in Montreal. Remember that there were several times back in the period of the 1970’s and early 1980’s that the Expos were on par with or outdrew their counterparts in new York, both the Mets and Yankees, so history tells us with no doubt that Montreal was and is a baseball town. They should revisit the plans for Labatt Park, because the Big Owe will only serve as a temporary home.
Finally, the fifth and sixth franchises go to the southeast US, no not to Florida which has sadly been baseball’s worst experiment for the simple fact that unlike Phoenix, Denver, and other cities mentioned here, Florida cities are full of transplants who could give a damn about a local team because they root for their team from back home. While one of these two slots could instead go to Brooklyn, I have instead chosen Charlotte and Nashville. Both have had success with new franchises and only ownership issues caused concern for Nashville’s NHL franchise and ruined fan interest in Charlotte’s first NBA team. Both cities are solid distances from the nearest markets of St. Louis, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Washington, certainly further away than San Diego is from Orange County and further than Milwaukee is from Chicago.
So now to the question of alignment, how will this all work? My proposal calls for Charlotte to join the existing teams in the AL East and for Nashville to join the AL Central. Portland and San Antonio would both go to the AL West, while Houston would transfer back to the NL Central. Vancouver would join the NL West and Montreal the NL East, plus Pittsburgh and Atlanta would flip divisions, Atlanta to the NL Central and Pittsburgh to the NL East. Now that I’ve made everyone grab for their maps, here is the easy to digest version of alignment.
AL East, Toronto, Boston, NY Yankees, Baltimore, Charlotte, Tampa.
AL Central, Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago Sox, Nashville, Cleveland, Detroit.
AL West, San Antonio, Texas, LA Angels, Oakland, Portland, Seattle.
NL East, Miami, Washington, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Montreal.
NL Central, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Atlanta.
NL West, Colorado, Arizona, San Diego, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, Vancouver.
Time table for expansion, award franchises in 2015, franchises can begin participating in the amateur draft and international free agency process in 2016, new MLB teams take the field opening day, April 2, 2018.