Scout's Diary: Fix The Schedule
Scouts are a cynical lot but deep down we do care about the game.
This scout has something about the game he wants to fix—the entire setup.
It just doesn't make sense to me that one league has 16 teams and the other 14. That one division has six teams and one has four.
I am always surprised that representatives of the teams don't make a bigger stink about that. After all, we are competing for championships here, and being the best team in the 14-team American League is easier than being the best in the 16-team National League—removing the big money, big market factors, of course.
Likewise, isn't it easier to be better than just three teams in the AL West and therefore make the playoffs, than it is to be better than five teams in the NL Central?
And the schedule stinks. It is too unbalanced with too many short series, and too much travel.
So I have a solution: even it out.
What it would take is one NL team moving over to the AL to give both leagues 15 squads. Of course, that would take some getting used to, and the right team would have to do it. It would probably have to be a west coast NL team (San Diego or Arizona?) moving over to the AL West, with Houston moving over to the NL West.
It would seem strange at first, but we would get used to it. It felt weird when the Brewers came to the NL but now it feels normal.
I know, I know there's another problem: it wouldn't work because 15 is an odd number and every day one team in each league would be left without an opponent.
But that's what interleague play can be about. Interleague play appears here to stay, so why fight it? And, face it, it's not bad. It's refreshing and different, even if it is flawed. And it makes sense in a lot of ways. I mean, it was a little crazy before interleague play that some of the best players in professional baseball could go their entire careers without facing each other. The best pitcher and the best hitter may never have matched up, not even in an All-Star game, or spring training, even for one at-bat, over their entire careers.
All we would have to do to make the schedule work is make interleague play an everyday thing instead of in bunches. We would need to have one or two interleague games a day, throughout the six months of the regular season. Wouldn't that be just as fun, or even more fun? Wouldn't that highlight the interleague matchups just as much, if not more? Sure, sometimes they would be duds, just like now, but sometimes they would be THE game of the day. Get excited, ESPN.
So, it is do-able. It would also be clean, and it would make the entire schedule fall into place. Here's how it would work out:
Three five-team divisions in each league with the winners going to the playoffs and the second-place team with the best record in each league earning the wild card. The penalty for the wild card, unlike now, is that the wild card team would host the first game of any playoff series and then that's it—hit the road. You don't deserve any advantages—you didn't finish in first place.
Other than the wild card, the teams with the best record overall in the regular season would get home field advantage throughout the playoffs, including the World Series. We will return the All-Star game to the silly, fun exhibition it is supposed to be.
Each team would play four four-game series with the other four teams in its division, two home, two away. That's 64 games.
Each team would play two four-game series with other the 10 teams in its league—one home, one away. That's 80 games. Now we're up to 144.
Each team would play four 3-game series with four non-rival interleague division squads, with the same rotating division system we have now. That's 12.
Each team would play two two-game sets, home and away, with its interleague rival, for the final six games. That's 162, just like we have now.
The 300 interleague games total, would be spread out over the course of the season, as mentioned before.
The rival thing is still not ideal because some of them are absurd. Perhaps we can tweak that and just keep a few of the real rivalries in place and rotate the others. Not a big deal either way.
That's a nice, balanced, logical schedule. With a ton of four-game series, which will reduce travel costs, and a few three-game sets. It will mean some overlap weekend series, with teams coming into cities and leaving on some strange days, like Saturday or Sunday, but we can get used to that. It happens in the minors and no one has ever died from it.
Oh, yeah, as for the designated hitter. Maybe we can leave it up to the home team in interleague play, or we reverse it—using the DH in NL parks and not in AL parks —allowing the home team in either league to see how the other half plays the game once in a while.
You want to talk about eliminating the DH altogether or making it uniform throughout baseball? That's a fun subject—for another day.
The Scout's Diary is written by a current professional scout who has asked to remain anonymous.