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Did a thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters make the 2020 MLB schedule?
It's great that we have an MLB schedule to pore over, but it's a lousy one.
On Monday, Major League Baseball released the schedule for the proposed, virus-be-damned 60 games in 66 days schedule. A lot was made about which teams have hard schedules, which teams have easy schedules, which teams play more of their rivals at home than on the road and on and on.
While Marquee couldn’t be troubled to air a schedule release show, MLB Network did, and on the show, they paused to laud the job that the schedule makers did, considering how hard it must have been to have create these schedules in such a short amount of time.
But, is it really all that hard to do?
To limit travel, as much as possible, each team only plays 40 games against the other four teams in their division, and then 20 against the five teams in the other league’s same division. For the Cubs that means 10 games each with the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds and Pirates, then a varying number of games with the teams in the AL Central, the White Sox (6), Tigers (3), Twins (3), Royals (4), Indians (4).
The Cubs caught a break and will play 14 of their 20 games against the Cardinals and Brewers at home. That’s assuming there’s any kind of home field advantage playing in front of no, or almost no fans (we can ask the Sox, I guess).
The Cardinals big break comes from getting more games against the lousy Royals than anybody else in their division.
The Cubs 30 road games are broken up into five road trips. They play the first 17 games of the season without an off day.
But why are these things, things?
What were the complicating factors the schedule makers were dealing with that required anything other than an equal number of home and road games against each divisional opponent and the same number of games against each of the teams in the other division?
Why do the Cubs play seven games in Cincinnati and three at home, and seven games against the Cardinals at home and three in St. Louis?
No big league team shares their home park with anybody else. Well, I mean, the Cubs share theirs with Billy Joel and the Committee to Re-elect Donald Trump, but nobody shares a park with any other professional sports teams that are using them now. So what were the conflicts that necessitated this mess?
Why don’t the Cubs play five games at home and on the road against the other NL Central teams and one four game series at two of the AL Central teams, one four game home series against two others and then two at home and two on the road against the Sox?
That would work for every team in the league, because all it requires is a two and two home and road set against their supposed “natural rival” in the other league (and they all have them, even if some—Padres/Mariners—are imaginary) to get to 30 home and 30 road games.
And, the season should have consisted of three ten-game home stands and three ten-game road trips for each team. That’s it, you only leave home three times all season.
Under that plan, the only difference in strength of schedule is the one team you don’t play that your opponents do—which is you, and there’s not much you can do about that.
The problem with any schedule of this many games in this many days is what happens when it rains. It rains in August and September, right? At least once and a while.
There is no way that we won’t have several make up games played in a park other than where the rained out game was supposed to be played in. I think it’s a safe bet that at some point there’s a neutral site makeup just because two teams with a mutual off day and a game to make up are both on road trips when their next shared off day is and they end up playing the make-up game in somebody else’s park to avoid both traveling some place for a one-off game.
Another non-sensical part of the schedule how it ends. The shorter the season the more likely it is that multiple teams are tied at the end of the season for division titles and/or wild card spots. It’s very likely that there will be tiebreaker games needed at the end of the year, and pretty likely that there will be multiples all requiring additional travel.
So how does the regular season end? With every team playing every day from at least the 21st of September to the final day of the season on September 27th. You know there will be rain outs that will need to be made up to determine who wins or pulls into ties to “end” the regular season. Those would need to be played, and then those might actually add to the number of tiebreaker games that are needed.
Major League Baseball could hardly have done a worse job with this schedule. It’s rife with avoidable inequities in terms of strength of schedule, and home and road game breakdowns. They send teams on needless extra road trips, didn’t build in enough off days to account for inevitable rain outs, and then didn’t leave themselves enough time at the end to schedule makeups and break ties.
If the end of the season isn’t a total mess it’ll either be because the virus forced a premature end to the whole thing, or just dumb luck.
I swear, at some point we’re going to find out that they were just going to go with an equal schedule until they tried to make the stupid Field of Dreams game fit in and couldn’t.
We must give the people a game in a corn field in the midst of a global pandemic!
And let’s not even get started on how if they really were trying to limit travel with this schedule that it wouldn’t look like this:
Well, at least it worked in the central(s).
If Ian Happ and Yu Darvish aren’t two of your favorite Cubs, you’re doing it wrong.
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