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Monday, March 26, 2007

Scheduling Nightmares

A nice article by Alan Schwarz on the problem with scheduling in today's environment that includes interleague play. I touched on this topic briefly in my first BP column of the new year (centered on my New Year's wishes) when I said:

Too Much of a Good Thing. The novelty of interleague play, which began in 1997, has begun to wear off. While Major League Baseball touts the fact that attendance at interleague games is 13% greater than at other games, an excellent piece in SABR's Outside the Lines summer newsletter more correctly puts that figure at 5% after making adjustments for the time of year when interleague games are played and the fact that most games take place on the weekends.

My wish is that interleague play would be cut back from the average of 15 to 17 games per team played in recent years to something more like nine (or fewer for the NL Central) and further restrict those to one alternating "natural rivalry" (itself a problematic concept for many teams) with two other series, one home and one away, thrown in the mix. This would not only lessen the need for teams to adjust their rosters for play in the other league but also help to minimize the contact between the leagues--a strength of the game when it comes to All-Star and World Series time.

And while we're at it, we may as well rebalance the schedule a little. While I've been a fan of the unbalanced schedule, agreeing with the logical necessity of intra-divisional play being primary if you're going to have divisions and the fact that it is necessary if you're going to keep interleague play, the current system is a little out of whack. Teams often play 19 games against opponents in their own division but just six against opponents in other divisions. While this allows teams who are behind in the division the opportunity to take matters into their own hands, it's
not so good for fans who see the same set of teams week in and week out. Yes there are complexities to the schedule, but playing a few less games against division rivals and the reintroduction of the four-game weekend series and the occasional doubleheader in conjunction with a reduction of interleague games would likely free up enough of the schedule to play other league rivals nine to 11 times per season. Barring radical realignment and the demise of interleague play, this is probably about the best we can hope for.

1 comment:

Ron Hostetter said...

Dan - I agree whole-heartedly with your thoughts. I've never been much of a fan of interleague play, and would love to see it go away. To me, the separate leagues is part of what makes baseball special.

I also am growing tired of the unbalanced scheduled. You make great points regarding allowing a team to get back in the race, but as a fan, it just gets old seeing the Tigers, Twins and White Sox over and over and over again.