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Complaining About The Only Schedule That Makes Sense

Major League Baseball teams currently play an "unbalanced" schedule, with more games against divisional opponents than non-divisional opponents. Should we care if the schedule becomes slightly more unbalanced?

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There's really just one guarantee in life.

Nope, not taxes. If you're smart enough you don't have to pay them.

Not death, either. Before too terribly long we'll be up-loading our consciousnesses into the Grid and we'll live forever. Or until the electricity runs out. But let's not think about that too hard.

The only guarantee is that no matter what sort of change is proposed, no matter how common-sensical, someone will come up with a reason to complain about it.

Case in point, via Danny Knobler:

The idea of realignment -- with the Astros moving from the National League Central to the American League West next year -- was that having six five-team divisions would result in a fairer schedule for everyone.

But what's fair?

The 2013 [schedule] isn't even done yet, but some teams are already concerned. The reason, according to a high-ranking official of one of those teams: The new schedule will be at least as unbalanced as the current one, and possibly more so.

In fact, the official said, teams may well go from playing 18 games a year against each division opponent to playing 19 a year. In that case, teams would play 47 percent of their games against teams within their own division.

First, "a fairer schedule for everyone" was never the idea of realignment. Moving the Astros to the American League doesn't make anything fairer for teams in the American League East, or in the American League Central, or in the National League East, or in the National League West. Not really.

It does shake up the fairness equation, in a small way, for teams in the National League Central and the American League West, because the number of teams in those divisions will change, and thus the chances of winning a division title change. In an even smaller way, it's fairer for everyone because the same number of teams will be competing for Wild Cards.

So, there's that. Which is a good thing, however small.

About the new schedule, though?

Yes, of course it's unfair. The combination of wild cards and unbalanced schedules has always been unfair. Divisions themselves have always been unfair. Major League Baseball hasn't been fair since 1968, when all the teams in one league were competing for just one postseason berth.

Oh, but wait! Even then it wasn't fair! Because you had two leagues, operating as separate universes. Don't you think there were any number of years in which the team with the second-best record in one league was actually better than the team with the best record in the other?

Fairness would look like this: 30 teams all in the same league, each team playing every other team six times, with (say) the teams with the 12 best records qualifying for the championship tournament. Oh, and rosters would have to expanded to (at least) 26 players, with all the double-headers you'd have to play to get 174 games in.

Does that sound good to you? Me neither. That sounds pretty awful, actually.

Now, one obvious option is to keep the leagues and the divisions and the Wild Cards, but adopt balanced schedules. You know, for fairness to the Wild Card contenders. There's an argument to be made for that. But then we lose Red Sox-Yankees games and Dodgers-Giants games and Cubs-Cardinals games and some other games we probably don't want to lose. MLB also loses TV ratings, with teams playing more games outside their time zones, while adding travel expenses (and, if I might mention this, also carbon monoxide to the atmosphere).

It's always going to be a balance between competing interests.

It seems that 18 games per season against divisional opponents has been generally acceptable. It's really hard for me to see that making it 19 games per season really changes that balance enough to worry about.