Yesterday I took a look at why the ACC may remove divisions. Meanwhile, the MLB is doing its own thing (and avoiding two key issues).
The History of Scheduling and 2022:
Over the course of the history of the MLB, there have been a number of rule changes in how the season schedule works. From the days of early baseball in the 1900's all the way to the 1960's the MLB schedule was 154 games. Then in 1961 and 1962 the American League and National Leagues expanded to 12 teams and a new schedule of 162 games was implemented.
With the more teams in the league, there needed to be a new structure in place, however in a non-divisional league, creating a system of games played was easy: split it down the middle.
All of this changed in 1969 when the MLB broke the American and National leagues in half- mostly by location- into two separate divisions of 6 teams. In 1994 after more teams joined the league (a total of 14 teams per league), the MLB again broke apart each league, now into 3 divisions of 5, 5, and 4 teams in the East, Central, and West. In 1998, the league expanded with two more teams, making it 14 teams in the AL and 16 in the NL. (That is when the Rays became a franchise, kicking out the Milwaukee Brewers.)
And then everything was peaceful...until 2013 when the MLB moved the Houston Astros to the AL West. Leading to an uneven 15 teams per league, which meant a need for a yearly interleague play structure. Now, without going over every little detail in how that process went, let's look at this season.
For the 2022 season the basic schedule for the 162 games is as follows:
19 games against each of the 4 divisional opponents (76 games total)
6-7 games against each 10 non-divisional league opponent (62 games total)
3-4 interleague games with each of the 5 teams in the NL Central (16 games)
4 games against the Mets or the "natural rival"
That's simple enough to follow for a casual baseball fan. Right? I mean, who doesn't like the number 19? Or the inconsistency in how often you play a team??
This scheduling system is incredibly flawed.
The schedule is extremely volatile year-to-year as a good team could get unlucky in having to face harder teams across their non-divisional and/or interleague play.
And while the divisional play seems fair as they play each team an equal number of times, you have to realize they will have to play an uneven amount of home and away games in order to get to 19.
The schedule is chaotic. It's bothersome. It's unbalanced (thus unfair) and it's just too much work to try and follow.
Luckily, the MLB did try and quell this annoyance going into next year.
The 2023 Schedule:
Unbeknownst to a lot of baseball fans, during the extremely tedious owners lockout of the players there was one new rule that I do like (for the most part).
In the 2023 season, they are going to implement what they are calling a "balanced schedule". This will look like the following:
14 games against each of the 4 divisional opponents (56 games total)
6 games against each 10 non-divisional league opponent (60 games total)
3 interleague games with each of the 14 teams* in the NL (42 games)
*Except for the "natural"/"geographic" rival (the Mets) with 4 games
On the surface, this looks to be a great proposal and I have to admit that I am happier with this system for next season than the current system. (At least it is even!)
Or is it?
To start, the interleague games will be played every other year at each others stadiums. While the MLB "fixes" the unbalanced nature of this by having their be a yearly flip-flop of home vs. away games, it is still incredibly unbalanced year-in and year-out. Will it affect much? Probably not, but a team playing in Yankee Stadium will play differently than in the Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds).
And, how will the MLB handle rainouts? What if the Yankees third and final game in Cincinnati next year is rained out? They can't add it back in as a doubleheader. They aren't scheduled to go back there. The MLB is putting itself in a situation where it is going to be facing a LOT of logistical nightmares.
It's more fair, but it's also still not solving my two biggest problems...
(Check back tomorrow for our 3rd and final part of this weekend series)