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The schedule is an absolute mess

Apr 30, 2013, 11:36 AM EST

comerica park rain delay getty Getty Images

Jayson Stark’s column today deals with all of the schedule havoc wreaked by the bad weather early in the season. Stark talks with Katy Feeney, who handles the MLB schedule, and she explains why it’s so hard to optimize things given so many competing interests. 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.

  1. BigGreen89 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    It’s fine to have games in Colorado and Minnesota before Mother’s Day, but it’s not fine to schedule the Mets to come into those 2 cities back to back with 7 straight games/no off days. The Mets were not scheduled to come back to either city this year, but now have to make separate trips to Colorado and Minnesota in August. That’s a joke. Any aspect of this would have been better — 1) don’t make the same team go to both places; 2) have an off day, so you can maybe make up a game; 3) have it be a division foe going in, so they will be back. They barely got any games in — and those were played in mid-20s weather.

    • flamethrower101 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      Bud Selig dislikes this comment

    • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      Well, you prefer to put them together so the East Coast team has a chance to adjust to the time change and lessen the travel. It works well that way, unless it all falls to shit, and then it’s dominoes knocking one another down.

      • BigGreen89 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        Have Colorado and Minnesota’s early home games be shaded towards division rivals (who will be coming back, making make up games easier). And, if you’re going to have the Mets go to Minnesota, have somebody else go to Colorado, rather than having the Mets do both. I am a Met fan, but I’d feel this way for any team (and I don’t think the Mets are doing anything this year, so those extra trips won’t matter — but imagine if they were good and they had to squeeze in those 2 one day trips in August). And, I like both Target Field and Coors Field — I am glad there are teams there, and I’m glad there is no dome. I’m just saying that scheduling needs to take this into account a bit.

      • dondada10 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        Welcome, BigGreen. The more Mets fans around here the better.

    • ctony1216 - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      and 4) schedule some day games, which gives you warmer weather and a better chance to get the game in.

      Also, some of Feeney’s excuses seemed a little lame:

      Stark writes: “Just don’t send teams in April to places like Cleveland, where the weather is notoriously not so balmy, if they’re not scheduled to return later in the year. …

      Feeney replies: “Maybe we could do some of that,” Feeney said. “But it’s never going to be perfect….”

      OK, so yes, do some of that, please.

      • BigGreen89 - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        Exactly — I’m not suggesting that you can get things perfect. The Rockies shouldn’t play their first 25 games on the road, but you can have them play the Giants or Dodgers at home, and have their first interleague games be on the road, for example.

      • kopy - Apr 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        Always follow the money. As a Twins fan, I wouldn’t want my team to open for a month on the road, but the owners would LOVE it. That would pack all the home games in good weather and boost revenue. For this reason, plus the standard school calendar, all owners want the most games in the middle of the summer.

        Conversely, this is why warm weather teams don’t want all their home games in April and September.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 30, 2013 at 3:28 PM

      I’m glad this season is largely meaningless for the Amazins, or I’d be fairly pissed by these extra trips.

    • bigleagues - Apr 30, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      Also how is it that INTER-LEAGUE, that misguided concept lost in its own shortsightedness and the actual reason for the unbalanced schedule, goes unmentioned entirely?

      Oh yeah, it’s a non-starter among MLB decision makers.

    • scoocha - May 1, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Why would Colorado and Minnesota have so many home games in the first month of the season? They just play predominantly on the road until inclement weather season calms down. Guess there’s nothing common about sense.

      Yeah, Mets traveling to both made little sense as well.

  2. kollin7 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    When they built Target Field they should have known that some years it’s going to still be winter in April. They could have avoided all those postponements with a retractable roof.

    Retractable roofs: When building a new stadium, in this day-and-age, there is no reason not to have one.

    • melkipershero - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      watch out. Twins fans hate when you speak with logic.

      • Ben - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        We Minnesotans don’t hate logic, we hate having strong opinions about anything. Gets in the way of our passive-aggressiveness.

      • melkipershero - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USMN0503

        Basically there are 3 months (June, July, and August) out of the year (on average) that is “baseball weather” considering most games are played at night (where the temps are lower). Those three months also happen to be the 3 months with the most precipitation (on average) for Minnesota. So where is the logic of not having some kind of retractable roof?

        Yes, I spent too much time on this, basically because I can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about Jason Collins.

    • Liam - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      There are 25-50 million reasons not to install a retractable roof on a new stadium.

      • kollin7 - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        Glad you went into specifics.

      • Liam - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        Pretty clearly referring to the cost, no? Those things aren’t cheap.

      • jwbiii - Apr 30, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        $200M.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304017404575165760977036190.html

  3. Old Gator - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    One of the great things about being a relict Feesh fan is that, since you’re boycotting the stadium anyway, you don’t have to give a flying crap about the schedule.

    • Gamera the Brave - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      Sounds very liberating, Gator…

  4. artthoumad - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Personally, I felt that the schedule became insane when the Astros joined the AL. I feel like MLB is just trying to push interleague play too hard.

    • chill1184 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:55 AM

      That or Selig is drawing up expansion plans

      • dondada10 - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM

        I don’t think balancing the leagues was a precursor to expansion.

    • thebadguyswon - Apr 30, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I like the new interleague. Its not in your face as much now that they play it all year.

  5. echech88 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Every year I am dumbfounded by the amount of West Coast and dome teams that leave their sunny and/or dry parks to open the year in the Midwest.

    Why did the Angels have to worry about snow on opening day in Cincy when it is 70 degrees every freaking day in Southern California?

    Rule of thumb: Arizona, Seattle, Miami, Tampa and Milwaukee cant get rained out!

    LA, San Diego, and the Bay Area rarely have to worry about it. Take advantage of that!

    • kollin7 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Also Houston.

    • cackalackyank - Apr 30, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      You forgot Toronto, too.

  6. simon94022 - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    The alternative to an unbalanced schedule is the “balanced” schedule used in the mid-1990s, and in the AL starting in 1977. But a balanced schedule is completely unfair when you have divisions – it means that everyone in the league plays the schedule give or take a game or two, but some teams are rewarded with division titles based solely on geography.

    There is no easy schedule fix for the Mets vs Twins problem. Your choices are (a) abolish interleague play (not going to happen), (b) change the IL format to something unfair, i.e., where teams never have to play certain other teams in the opposite league, or (c) set up an IL schedule in which Mets would play more than one series in Minnesota in the same season (unfair and ridiculous).

    A retractable roof for Target Field, and going back to the traditional mid-April opening days would be easier solutions than redrawing the MLB schedule format, which is more rationale today than it has been for the last three decades.

  7. Kevin Gillman - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Never, ever, EVER schedule Yankees and Red Sox to come to Cleveland in April. That is absurd, make it June. Not only would attendance be better, but the weather would cooperate too.

    Duh!!

    • melkipershero - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      I just had one of those “duh” moments. You’re right on the money.

      • Kevin Gillman - Apr 30, 2013 at 5:45 PM

        Yeah, I have no issue with home games in Cleveland on April, but I say play the AL Central teams in that month, so if a game is rained out, or dare I say snowed out, it’s easier to make up the game. Now Indians come back from Detroit on May 13th, to play the Yankees in a DH, then head to Philly. Grant it, those aren’t far locations, but it’s still absurd to come back home after a road trip, only to go right back on the road after the games. But it is what it is.

  8. danaking - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    The unbalanced schedule is all that keeps divisions and rivalries interesting. Yes, it implies unfairness in choosing the wild card teams, but the new play-in game fixes that for the most part by making it a big deal to win the division. If one is going to advocate a perfectly balanced schedule within a league, why not do away with divisions altogether and just put the four best teams in the playoffs? Sets up one playoff race per league per year, which I doubt anyone wants.

    The ideas above have merit. Schedule games for locations with questionable weather among division rivals, where make-ups are a possibility. Play as many games in warm-weather/domed stadiums as possible. Don;t send teams on trips to cities that all have high postponement risks, such as the Mets just endured.

  9. melkipershero - Apr 30, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    I’d like to see MLB go to a divisonless format. Top 8 teams make the playoffs in each of the leagues, with the 4 teams with the best record having home field advantage (obviously). Put the DH in both leagues (not really a big DH fan, but with runs scored going down it’s probably best to add the hitter to the NL). Have all AL teams play all NL teams once at home and once on the road atleast. Add more double headers during June-September or in domed stadiums earlier in the year on Saturdays. I know I’ve missed something in this but it’s just an idea.

  10. mjames1229 - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    So what I’ve read in the comments so far…

    * Don’t have empty warm weather stadiums (LA) open instead of playing in Cincinnati
    * Don’t have cold weather teams play cold weather teams
    * Don’t have cold weather teams play outside of the division
    * Don’t have any team play in back-to-back cold weather cities
    * There are 11 (actually more) domes/warm weather cities in which all teams should play early in the season
    * Weather can be cold and rainy in April / May / Sept in Minneapolis (and likely other cities, too)

    What it comes down to is “stuff happens” and get used to it.

    But the one that continually sticks in my craw is the one about focusing play in warm weather / domed stadium in early and late season games.

    So Milwaukee / LA / Toronto / Tampa / et al get an overload of schedule in an undesirable part of the season (nobody goes to games in April and [if out of postseason hunt, September]) and cold weather cities benefit from an excess of games in the middle of summer because they couldn’t get financing for a retractable roof.

    And even if the attendance numbers could work, is it fair to as Chicago / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / et al to start with a 12-game road trip every season so they can hold Opening Day on April 15 (still with lots of potential for cold weather) with a 3-9 record?

    Its an unsolvable problem brought about by the additional revenue of adding two extra playoff rounds, 4 teams in the 90s and interleague play.

    In September when everybody is exulting the playoff race because of the many teams are in the hunt and one or more includes an expansion team, remember the price of that is more cold weather games and more single trips to more cities.

    • Bob - Apr 30, 2013 at 3:57 PM

      Great post. Everyone should sit down and try to come up with a schedule on their own. You would immediately see how hard it is. And that’s just trying to make one for a board or computer baseball game, where scheduling rules, travel considerations and team requests don’t come into play. It’s one thing to gripe about it, but it’s another thing to actually try to do it.

  11. dowhatifeellike - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    It’s not just the weather aspect that is a problem – just look what the Orioles have going on:

    @Oakland for 4
    @Seattle for 3
    @LAA for 4
    travel day
    Vs. Kansas City for 3
    @Minnesota for 3
    travel day
    Vs. San Diego for 2

    away-away-away-home-away-home

    After a 10 day west coast trip, they come home for 3 games, leave for 3 games, then come right back.

  12. jm91rs - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    Can you imagine how freaking hard it would be to assemble the entire MLB schedule? I had to help someone make the schedule for my kids baseball league. 9 teams, 2 locations, and it was a lot more complicated than I thought it would be (no games during state testing, no games on religious holidays, who gets the practice fields).

    I know there are computer programs to help, but I still can’t imagine the complexities of an MLB schedule. Cubs have to have so many day games, this team can’t play west coast one night then east cost the next after 10 days without an off day, this team can’t play there sunday because the NFL is in town, etc. Every time I think about how it sucks that my team hasn’t had a day off in so many days, I just think about how hard it is to make everyone happy.

    • jwbiii - Apr 30, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      MLB’s schedule used to be made by a couple in their home on Staten Island. They were replaced a few years ago.

      http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/04/nyregion/new-yorkers-co-major-league-scheduling-the-high-hard-one.html?pagewanted=all

    • jao204 - Apr 30, 2013 at 3:43 PM

      I know a lot about how these schedules are made. Without going into too much detail, I will just say that adding the Astros to the AL has made scheduling CONSIDERABLY more difficult. In the past, you could schedule both the NL and the AL separately (mostly). Now, though, there is always an interleague game, so you cannot do this. Solving one 14-team scheduling problem and one 16-team schedule is more than a thousand times (a very conservative estimate) easier than solving a 30-team problem.

      • Bob - Apr 30, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        The whole point of making the leagues at 15 each was to eliminate the bigger problem — one division where a team only had to beat out three teams to qualify for postseason play and another division where a team had to beat out five teams to qualify for postseason play.

        I hate interleague play and I’m an Astros fan who thinks the wrong team got moved to the AL (Brewers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, even Washington would have all been better candidates). But 15-15 is a more fair solution. Flip side is that you will not have a scheduling solution than is ideal. Even going to a balanced schedule would hurt the division races because a team would play only about 25 percent of its schedule against division opponents. As it stands now, you play your division teams a total of 76 games, almost 50 percent. That’s a better solution.

  13. watermelon1 - Apr 30, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Well… The NFL certainly doesn’t care!

  14. gloccamorra - May 1, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Okay, you can blame the weather for SOME problems, but the Mariner’s official schedule has the Mariners playing four games in four days against the Padres, the first two in Seattle, the second two in San Diego. Whose bright idea was THAT?

    • danaking - May 1, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Excellent point. This is the kind of scheduling thing you see pop up during the season (like the Orioles example above) sometimes make you scratch your head.

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