New MLB Schedule Should Eliminate Imbalance Of Geographic Rivals
Blake Snell and the Rays Have An Unfair Advantage Because of the Geographic Rival Concept
They have decided to go sixty, having spent the past three months shifting between drive and reverse or staying in park. All that remains now is the question of how they get there, or if the engine can hold up beyond this year.
Major League Baseball teams, after the owners and players finally came to an agreememt, will play a sixty game schedule. In order to lessen the odds of spreading the coronavirus and to prevent time-consuming road trips, forty of the games will come against clubs in the same division.
The remaining score of games will be of the interleague variety, all of which will come against clubs in the same division in the other league. Mathematics would conclude that all of those matchups will be four game series, since there are five different teams to play.
Four game series have always caused problems for teams, extending from Friday through Monday or Thursday through Sunday. The former results in problems of departure, given that Sunday has traditionally been a travel day.
The latter four game option too often spoils the anticipation of a weekend series against a divisional rival, which usually start with huge crowds for the Friday night opener. Still, that situation is better than the third type of four game series, requiring teams to play Monday through Thursday.
Because of the adjusted schedule, fans will likely see more of these weeknight quartets. Since the divisions comprise five teams, interleague games will have to be played every night.
These matchups must be arranged so that every team faces the same opposite league opponent an equal amount of times, which has in the past allowed some clubs an advantage over its division rivals. For example, Washington has always gotten more games against its geographical rival Baltimore, while the Mets have to play more games against the Yankees.
It has been drastically unfair for one division contender get extra games against a team with 100 losses, when at the same time its rival gets saddled with extra games against a team with 100 wins. Yet some reports have indicated that MLB may keep such imbalances in its schedule for 2020, dropping four games against one interleague opponent in order to have a home and home series against its geographic rival.
That decision could have even more drastic consequences this year than in the past, since each game is worth three times what it would have been in a season of 162. St. Louis then would get twice as many games against the rebuilding Kansas City Royals, leaving Milwaukee to double its contests against division champion Minnesota.
The ramifications could reach beyond the division, as it could very well effect postseason qualification. Tampa Bay would have a similar advantage over Cleveland, who finished as runner-up in the Wild Card race last year. The Indians would be forced to play two series against the much improved Cincinnati Reds, while the Rays were doubling their meetings with the lowly Florida Marlins.
Four extra games against a rebuilding team or, as the case may be a mighty contender, carries the weight of eight games in 2020. In a season already crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball must be sure to abandon the idea of the highly unbalanced concept of geographic rivals.