So the schedule for 2014 was released Wednesday. The big news was that the season would open in Sydney, except it wasn't big news because we already knew the season would open in Sydney. The other big news, I guess, was the inter-divisional match-ups. If you're a Cubs fan with season tickets, you're probably pretty thrilled at the prospect of the Red Sox visiting next summer.
As a baseball fan without any season tickets, though, I have a tough time getting worked up about the schedule, for the simple reason that it doesn't really matter much. Football schedules and basketball schedules can have a measurable impact on, if not who wins championships, certainly who gets into the playoffs. Football, especially. But the baseball schedule just isn't as important, because travel issues are relatively unimportant and inter-league competition is relatively limited.
Again, from the perspective of a baseball fan. If you're passionate about one team, everything is important. Or seems important.
I bring all this up because the Mariners' schedule has raised some eyebrows.
First, Lookout Landing:
The Mariners got their schedule in the mail today, and the results are unsurprising. They got dumped on.
It's a rough schedule. The Mariners haven't gotten much help from Major League Baseball in a long time, and 2014 isn't any different. The streaks away from home to start and end the year are tough if you believe in momentum, of if you believe the Mariners can be in a playoff race at the end of the year.
... They haven't had an opening day in Safeco since 2008, so this will be the 6th straight year Major League Baseball has decided Seattle doesn't deserve to open baseball in Seattle. I'm not a scheduling expert, but it seems like MLB has treated the Mariners pretty shitty over recent years, and 2014 doesn't seem to change that.
Next, Jim Caple:
2014 sked out & M's make 5 trips to East coast to play the 5 AL East teams Also make 6 trips to Texas to play Rangrs & Astros. This is fair?— Jim Caple (@jimcaple) September 10, 2013
which inspired this from your faithful scribbler:
Before we worry too terribly much about the baseball schedule and travel inequities, let us remember two key words: FIRST CLASS.— robneyer (@robneyer) September 10, 2013
which led to this:
@robneyer Funny. First class definitely helps but the miles still add up. Not right that M's must make 5 trips to play 5 AL East opponents.— Jim Caple (@jimcaple) September 10, 2013
Look, the miles do add up. The Mariners, because they're based hundreds of miles away from even their nearest competition, have always spent more time in the air than every other team in the majors. It's always been this way, and probably always will be. Until there's a team in another country, anyway.
Of course, there are degrees of unfortunate travel and it seems the schedulers have discovered a new degree for the M's next season.
Which is a real drag, I know. But I do want to make a couple of actual points here:
1. I don't believe Major League Baseball plays favorites.
Hey, I might be wrong. But I believe the schedule-makers do their level best to satisfy the multitude of stakeholders, and don't receive diktats to score this team or that team. I believe they're good-hearted folks who would choose just about anything over getting ripped for supposed unfairness. I really do believe they do the best they can.
2. Traveling isn't really so difficult.
Look, I don't like flying. But the two reasons I don't like flying are a) the seats are cramped, and b) the security lines are a drag and the boarding scrum is soul-killing.
Here's the thing, though ... When I've got a good seat -- not first class, but Economy Plus or an exit-row seat -- I don't mind being up in the air at all, and I find a six-hour flight little more wearing than a three-hour flight. If you've got a comfortable seat, flying really isn't so uncomfortable at all. Especially if you're able to sleep while flying (I am).
Baseball players ALWAYS have comfortable seats. Always. Plenty of leg room on those charter flights. Also, no security lines and no boarding scrum. I think when people think about players flying, they think about us flying. But baseball players don't fly like us. They go straight to their jet without touching a suitcase or getting x-rayed, and settle into their wide plush seats for a relatively relaxing ride to their next city.
I'm not saying all of that is easy ... but it's a lot easier than what the rest of us are used to. And I will guess that the Mariners' tough schedule costs them maybe a game or two per season. At the very most.
Which is unfair, to be sure. But there's not much to be done about it. The die was cast when Seattle got a baseball team.