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Improving MLB Interleague Scheduling

By Edited Apr 29, 2016 0 0

When is my team getting here?

As baseball fans, we thrive on watching as much baseball as we can.  We enjoy all the matchups.  We have our rivals that we enjoy beating.  For example, as a Cubs fan, I always enjoy seeing them play the Cardinals.  On the other hand, I enjoy seeing them play everyone.  Let's say for example that I live near Boston.  I would be able to see the Cubs play at Fenway Park this year, but it was the first time in 93 years.  I wouldn't want to wait another 93 years.  So how do we alleviate this problem?

Following the NFL!

The solution that I am proposing is very similar to what the National Football League (NFL) does.  Well, minus the lockout of course.  The NFL creates schedules that are a lot more balanced and make sure that fans in different cities get to see every other team over a period of time.  They start by scheduling two games (home and away) against everyone in their division.  Hence more weight is given to beating teams in their own division.  So MLB has this part down, which is good.  

The next part is best illustrated with an example.  Let's look at the New England Patriots.  This year, the Patriots (and other teams in the AFC East) are scheduled to play the teams in the NFC East.  Next year, they will play the NFC West...and so on.  Then for the rest of the schedule, they are scheduled to play teams in their own conference.  These teams are picked to have a similar strength.  Overall, the NFL does a great job at fairness and helping fans see every team.  The worse that can happen is a San Francisco 49ers fan (ok that's me) would only be able to see the 49ers play in Foxboro every 8 years.

Now for the Solution..

There are only 16 games in the NFL each season.  They do a great job at balance.  So why can't we do something similar with baseball.  Why not use the same formula for interleague play?  Take a division, and then let the teams in that division play teams in a certain division within each year.  For example, take the Cubs, and the rest of the National League Central.  This year the Cubs could play all the teams in the American League Central this year, then all the teams in the American League West next year, then the American League East the year after.  Have them play a three games series at each place.  With this method, the longest a fan would have to wait to see a certain team is three years.  

And for the Rest of Teams..

The rest of the schedule would be made up of playing each team in your own league an equal number of times.  Of course you still want to schedule more games within your own division.  The only problem would be figuring out exactly how many games as it would vary because of the different division sizes.  Most of the divisions have 5 teams, but two have 4, and one has 6.  This would make the scheduling tricky, but on the other hand it already is because of the imbalance.

The other question is whether the natural interleague matchups are important to keep every year?  Do we need to have the Cubs - White Sox and Mets - Yankees playing every year?  If so, then we need to work the schedule around that.  The years that the National League Central are scheduled to play the American League Central, there will not be an issue.  But other years there will be issues, and we would need to take that into account in creating the schedule for the rest of the game.  A solution might be to automatically have the Cubs play the White Sox.  In years that the divisions automatically meet, then maybe have the Cubs play an extra 6 games against the Cardinals (a natural rival).

An Alternative..Realignment..

There has been talk recently of moving a team from the National League to the American League.  This would create and easier scheduling solution.  We would use the same principles as above, except that we would simply pick five teams from the other league each year.  Fans could see every team at least every third year.  Then all we would have to do is take the rest of the games and divide them evenly among the other 14 teams that a team would have to play.  The only kink would be the previously posed question whether we want to have the "natural" rivalries every year.



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