Weather-wise, April's been a rough month for Major League Baseball. Rain. Snow. Cold. O' the cold!
You probably heard about that. And you might have noticed all the resulting postponements, some of which have resulted in doubleheaders, some in future doubleheaders and lost off-days. You can't do much about the weather, except maybe hope climate change picks up a little bit. The baseball schedule, though? As Jayson Stark writes, the baseball schedule is something else altogether:
What some people in baseball think might be fixable, though, is the schedule. Which -- in case you hadn't caught on -- has a completely different look than it's ever had.
Interleague play all season long. … An odd number of teams in all six divisions and both leagues. … More series than ever before involving teams making their only trip to that town.
It's created, well, issues.
And when glop falls out of the sky, 18 games don't get played as scheduled and the day-night doubleheaders start multiplying, uh, guess what? So do the complaints.
And Katy Feeney has heard them all.
"No matter what we do, nobody will ever be happy with the schedule," said Feeney, baseball's longtime scheduling guru. "They might find one little piece they like. But I don't think we've ever had a year where everyone's been happy with the schedule."
That's easily the more important thing to keep in mind: People have been complaining about the schedule for as long as people have been complaining. Except of course the Internet makes complaining a lot easier than it used to be. There's also more complaining from the players, since they're no longer required to just shut up and play ball.
Worry not, pilgrims! Our friend Craig Calcaterra has a cure for the schedule's ills: Balance that schedule, Mr. Gorbachev!
... Sorry, there do have to be games in Minnesota before Mother’s Day, folks. That’s just how it is.
Also how it is, however, and which seems to be the driver for so many of the logistical issues Stark and Feeney discuss, is the unbalanced schedule. Which goes unmentioned entirely, by the way, because it’s simply a non-starter to go back to the old balanced schedule among MLB decision makers.
Which, in turn, limits my sympathy for MLB decision makers when the weather takes a bad turn. You make it so teams visit the majority of their road opponents once and only once, you put yourself at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Well, yes. But when it comes to unbalanced schedule vs. unbalanced schedule, there's never been a right answer and never will be. On the balanced side, you've got fewer one-visit situations and you've got teams fighting for the wild cards playing the same schedule. On the unbalanced side, you've got less travel and you've got teams fighting for division titles playing the same schedule.
Personally, I prefer unbalanced schedules. I like the Royals playing more games against the Tigers than the Angels, and I like the Red Sox playing more games against the Yankees than the Indians. But it's been tried both ways, and probably will be tried the other way again. At which point roughly half the people will complain.
Yes, when the weather's lousy in April we're going to wind up with a bunch of doubleheaders. But baseball's already addressed this issue, with the temporary 26-man rosters. Hell, you could even make the 26-man rosters universal in April; in the old days, teams could carry as many players as they liked until the middle of May and the Republic didn't fall. I'm not saying I would support that measure; but doubleheaders aren't the end of the world, nor is players losing the odd off-day later in the season. These guys are making immense amounts of scratch for playing games, and the occasional hardship simply must be endured.
Is the schedule perfect? No, it's not. But despite the inevitable and necessary tinkering, it never will be.