memo to Baseball: Scheduling is As Much Art as Science
How many odd scheduling quirks are on the 2013 schedule I do not know, I have not studied every single teams 2013 slate with a fine tooth comb. But let’s just say scheduling was the excuse for the realignment, yet baseball still can’t seem to draw it up properly.
We were told Houston or some other team had to move to make a 15-15 league for a more fair schedule. Now in theory this is very true, but to make a theory seem worth defending or proving, you have to then put everything into practice based on your theory right? Not if you are in charge of scheduling at MLB.
Before I go full throttle after what is wrong with the 2013 slate of games, lets first backtrack for a moment. I was in favor of a 15-15 split all along, even submitting my thoughts to the Commissioner with a scheduling proposal way back in August 1995. It would take effect in 1998 when the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays as they were known then came into existence. The proposal was simple, move the Royals to the AL West, move the Tigers to the AL Central, put the Rays in the East. The Diamondbacks would join the NL West and that would be that. But baseball was at that time so against interleague series in April or September that 15-15 just seemed to be this completely horrific idea. My proposal called for 30 interleague games, 3 home and 3 away against every team in one division, rotating the divisions each season like the NFL, plus 18 games against each team in the division and six against each team outside the division within your own league. It took baseball until 2002 which was the sixth season of interleague play to even begin having the divisions rotated for interleague play.
Later working on the 16-14 alignment that we were saddled with the last 15 seasons, I drew up a proposal that would have been as balanced as possible for the interleague and interdivisional games. Baseball could have scheduled all 14 AL teams to play 20 games against the NL, they would play two games against four teams and three games against four more. IN other words, each AL team would play eight series against the NL or in theory against one half of the league. For NL teams because there were 16 teams in the league, this meant playing seven series during interleague play and during each of these eight rounds of play, two different NL teams would have been the odd teams out and played a league game against each other. Half of the NL teams would have played 18 games against the AL, four three-game and three two-game series. The other half would have played 17 games against the al, three three-game series and four two-game series. The remaining schedule would have
a divisional focus making sure everyone played the same number of games against every team in the division and making sure that home and road divisional games were evenly split. Of course as we all know, particularly fans of NL Central teams, that balance did not occur at all during the entire 15 years of this alignment.
Now we move back to the present and future of baseball schedules, enter 2013 with the 15-15 alignment. Rumors were out all summer about what the final product would look like. We then learned last week that teams would play 20 interleague games and the structure on this portion of the schedule seems very well done, featuring a pair of two-game home series, a pair of three-game home series, and the same pair of two and pair of three game sets on the road. We are told everyone will play 19 games against each team in the division, a total of 76 and 66 against the remaining teams in the league, which means seven games against six teams and six games against four more outside the division.
AT face value, there is nothing really to gripe about, it would make more since to just play 70 outside the division or seven against everyone and within the division, play 18 against each team for 72 total division games. That is a minor complaint and at face value, this seems like a great step in the right direction for baseball as it relates to the schedule.
But at face value things can sometimes be not quite what they are in reality and this is most obvious to fans of at least one AL West team. Basic math says that when you play 19 games against a team, someone will have an extra home game. Basic math also says that when you have four teams who you will play in a grouping AKA division with this formula, that you will play the extra game at home against two teams and on the road against two more. Basic math says that when you play 66 games against 10 teams, you play six games or three home and three road against four of them, seven games or four home and three away against another three, and seven games or three home and four away against the final three. Scheduling fairness, the whole excuse and the need fans were told to realign baseball.
I have no issue with realignment other than that Milwaukee should have been put back into the AL, but that argument I will never win, the issue of Houston switching leagues is over and done with for the foreseeable future. But the argument I can make and will every day until someone else gets appointed to the job of schedule maker, is that baseball could have done much better than it did for the 2013 season. Case in point, the Los Angeles Angels. When I was looking at the Angels schedule, I was thrown off, how was it that they had that extra game, that seventh game at home against four teams and on the road for just two? Surely I was missing something, but I double and triple checked, there it was in plane language a first grader could understand. The Angels had four home games against four teams outside the division, Orioles, white Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays, while just twice did they have a fourth game on the road, Yankees and Royals. So that meant that baseball had to give the Angels more road divisional games, but surely MLB would not do that I said to myself. No way, that was the whole idea of realignment. Well folks, here is your great scheduling gurus at work, they gave the Angels 37 home division games, ten with Houston, nine each with Texas, Oakland, and Seattle. Meantime, they get 39 road games in the division, nine at Houston, ten each at Texas, Oakland, and Seattle. This was why MLB realigned commissioner Selig?
This could all easily be fixed of course, move one game from a road series at either Oakland, Texas, or Seattle, and make it a home game. Then move one game with the Rays, White Sox, Orioles, or Blue Jays on to the road. Because baseball did this though, that means there are other teams out there with extra home or road divisional games and all this was supposed to have been fixed with realignment. It could have been fixed, basic math shows it can be. Basic math shows that the number of required home and road series would have worked perfectly had they just followed basic math principals, but clearly that was never considered or bothered with when the 2013 schedule was released.
What am I doing about it, the same thing I did in June through August of 1995 while home for the summer while attending Texas A&M, I’m going to draft an entire schedule, in this case for 2014. I’m sending it to the Commissioner, certified. I’m also going to send the team version for each individual franchise to their general manager. My schedule follows all the requirements, no more than 2 weeks on the road, no more than 20 consecutive games, off days when going from pacific to eastern time, Etc. When I’m done, I hope that baseball will make me the scheduler, I can do better than what they currently have and later this year, probably sometime in November, I will post this online for fans to look at as well, team by team.