I’m just using the picture to illustrate an interleague rivalry and how A.J. Pierzynski took it like a champ. Anyway…
Earlier today, Anno blogged about the new MLB schedule and how he didn’t like it. The link actually shows the Cubs’ tentative 2013 schedule, the first in which all teams will play interleague all year long, and where each league is even at 15 teams apiece. I actually like the schedule and I’ll explain why.
For one, the fact that the leagues were uneven up to now is annoying. The schedules were even more unbalanced than usual for the American League West (four teams) and the National League Central (six teams) while the interleague matchups were not always the fairest, because they had to squeeze something like 15 games worth of interleague into the month of June. With cross-town and in-state rivals, and the fact that some teams only played the weaker counterparts in the other league while others had to play the strongest, you could see where there would be less parity within just a single division, let alone across all of baseball.
With the woeful Houston Astros moving to the AL West next year, everything evens up. We talked about this a bit in our forum (yes, we have a forum, you should visit and talk and stuff) and one of the tidbits from a Big League Stew column on this subject was:
Each team will now play the same breakdown of games as everyone else: 76 contests against division rivals, 66 against non-division league teams and 20 interleague games.
This is remarkably close to what I had postulated in my blog last October, except that I flipped the in-division and out-of-division games and didn’t know about the 20 interleague game limit because that hadn’t been fleshed out yet. But since every MLB team now has the same basic schedule setup, nobody can complain about imbalance or the fact that during interleague, one NL Central and one NL East club have to duke it out while the rest of the teams are doing their AL vs. NL thing.
The 76 contests against division rivals also ensures that in-division play remains critical as you must rise above the crap within your own division. The 66 out-of-division in-league games is kind of a head-scratcher though as some teams will be played more than others amongst the ten possible opponents, but that probably had to be done to actually make this schedule work. In fact, I’m most impressed that MLB was able to squeeze in one or two random interleague matchups throughout the entire season without having a few clubs sitting by twiddling their thumbs. I also like that the schedule for the Cubs is actually very reasonable in the amount of travel that has to be done. Check it out yourselves, except for a couple of West Coast trips the travel actually makes sense.
The lack of emphasis on interleague in the new schedule is probably best because as a club, your goal is to A- win your division or B- at least secure one of the two wild card spots. This is not like in the old days where there were only eight or so teams in each league and you need to rise to the top, and I don’t think there’s any way MLB will ever go back to that as there’s simply too much money to be made doing it this way. The emphasis should be within the league and specifically the division such that the best division champion is crowned and the two wild cards are fairly earned.
Don’t get me started about the wild cards, by the way…we should be seeding the playoffs by overall record and not reward a team who barely finished above .500 in a crappy division, but I like that at least the schedule is more balanced now. Baby steps. Next stop: expand replay!