Drafting Potential 2017 MLB Schedule, Radicle New Proposal
While my dream job that I will surely never get is that of Baseball Commissioner, I have come up with a major change in scheduling that would in theory help with potential travel and it would shockingly be a very fair and balanced schedule (all apologies to FOX News).
The solution is very basic and get this, all teams would play everyone in both leagues.
A baseball schedule takes exactly 26 weeks on the regular season calendar or exactly half a year. A typical series of three or four games is thus played in the early half of the week and then another is played over the weekend. Baseball fans know this but for those who don’t get the art of the scheduling, the typical arrangement is for a team to play a Monday-Wednesday, Monday-Thursday, or Tuesday-Thursday series, followed by a Friday-Sunday. On some occasions, a series closing on Wednesday is followed by a Thursday-Sunday arrangement and sometimes teams will stay over and play a Friday-Monday series. It is almost unheard of for a team to start a series on Saturday or Sunday, this did happen a few times during the interleague early years of 1997 and 1998. From 1999-2001, teams would play a Thursday-Saturday and then a Sunday-Tuesday series after the All Star break, which was then followed by a small Wednesday-Thursday set.
The key number though is 51 available blocks of scheduling, 25 early-week and 26 weekend series. The proposal I am sharing here, the one I will put forward with a completely built schedule this fall as an example to the MLB Players Association, the 30 MLB Front Offices and to MLB corporate headquarters is based off a very linear approach.
Teams play each of the four oppositions within the same division 14 games each for a total of 56 division games. This percentage at just over one third of all games taking place in the division is close to the ratio seen in the NFL and NHL, the former like MLB having a much stronger focus on division play as a component of qualification for postseason play. A team currently plays 66 games against the ten teams that are intraleague outside the division, this number would reduce to 60 such games at six games per team divided as three each home and away. Thus, you have 16 scheduled series or blocks of games within the division and another 20 such series against the intraleague teams for a total of 36. This leaves 15 series of games to be scheduled naturally against 15 interleague opponents. The schedule arrangement would feature three games at home against seven teams, three games on the road against another seven teams, with four games played as a two home-two away block on four consecutive days. Where this proposal is more like the NHL and NBA is the percentage of games played against the opposite league or conference. In both hockey and basketball, 30 of 82 games are against the 15 teams in the opposite conference, or just over 36%. The ratio for the baseball proposal would put that figure at 28%, 46 of 162 games and as a percentage of regular season games, that figure is actually closer to the 25% as is the case for the NFL.
The home and road assignments would change from one season to the next and the 4-game block series would also change. IN cases where a team from the Eastern time zone was facing a western team in Arizona or on the west coast, the block series would always start in the eastern city. Furthermore, the team playing in the east would need to be previously scheduled at another city within the eastern Time zone and the team traveling to the western city would then be scheduled for its next series in a western division city or a central division city in the central time zone.
Over the first two and a half weeks of the season, all teams would play divisional opposition, two home and two away series, the fifth against either an intraleague or interleague opposition, with minimal interleague play during this period. The same approach would be taken over a period in June during weeks 10-11 and the first half of week 12 and in September during the ladder half of week 24 and weeks 25-26 closing the season. Division play with interleague play and no intraleague games outside the division would be scheduled for the period in late July and early August covering the back half of week 16 and weeks 17-18. Thus, teams in the same division would be scheduled for series in April and late July or early August in one city, with games scheduled for the opposite city in June and September.
The remainder of the schedule would feature various combinations of interleague and intraleague play and with 195 interleague series to be scheduled over 31 blocks of the schedule, two approaches could be taken. First, schedule five different interleague series during each of 11 blocks in the schedule and seven interleague series over each of the remaining 20 blocks, or schedule 15 interleague series during a single block of the schedule, leaving 180 interleague series to be scheduled over 30 blocks of playing time. Those remaining 30 blocks would then be split evenly with 15 blocks of the schedule featuring nine interleague and six intraleague series, while the remaining 15 blocks feature just three interleague series and a dozen intraleague series.
The pros, it makes for some easier travel arrangements as teams could in many instances get scheduled for consecutive road series at neighboring cities that were in both leagues. It would certainly allow for some instances of teams taking a road trip where they played consecutive series against the Giants and Athletics, Cubs and White Sox, Etc.
While some will certainly react very negatively to this, the one con is simply that AL teams have to go without a DH for 23 games instead of the current ten games. My counter argument to this would be based on three points of fact. First, most teams have not used the same DH for more than 139 games in any given season since the DH came to the American League in 1973 and a full time DH playing every day would miss 23 games if he could not play the field. This would force AL managers to sometimes choose to play someone in the field and give up a player with better defensive ability. It also forces NL managers to keep a bench warmer regularly into game situations since that player would be called upon at times to serve as DH when playing at the AL city. Second, you can please the players association by adding a 26th roster spot that would be made part of the full-time active roster for the period from opening day through August 31. Third, build in some basic scheduling rules to include limits on how games are scheduled. For example, no team would play more than two consecutive road interleague series. Furthermore, teams would play one series against an intraleague team outside the division during the first 13 weeks of the schedule and the series at the opposite city would be scheduled between weeks 14 and 26. This ends the practice of having the Rangers and Red Sox facing one another twice during the first six weeks of the schedule and thus not playing one another at all over the season’s final 20 weeks as was done in 2014.
Call it radicle, call it out of the box, call it whatever you like, but perhaps baseball should try this idea for the 2017 season and see how it is received. It focuses on division play, a truly balanced intraleague schedule and ends the practice of giving certain teams a weak interleague schedule as opposed to others who face much stronger competition.