For all who tire of the Yankees versus the Red Sox on national TV, Major League Baseball’s revised schedule for next year offers a respite. The heated, hated rivals will play six fewer games next season as MLB moves to a balanced schedule.
Every team will play every team in a season for the first time in history. That may sound cool and exciting, but I don’t believe it’s actually good for the game.
Division opponents will play each other 13 times, down from 19. That means less Dodgers-Giants, Cubs-Cardinals and, yes, Yankees-Red Sox. Not every team has a natural rivalry like those and the new wrinkle will help the gate when those high-profile teams visit ballparks they haven’t been to as often.
But players are already far too friendly and less familiarity will breed even less contempt. I have contempt for a schedule with fewer premier matchups.
Twenty-four fewer division games is great … for the Baltimore Orioles.
Sure, the Orioles are having an excellent year in the AL East. But with baseball’s lowest payroll they will surely welcome fewer games against well-financed New York, Boston and even Toronto plus perpetually clever and competitive Tampa Bay.
Baseball Should Embrace What’s Different
I’ve long been a proponent of baseball embracing what’s different about it rather than evolving toward other professional sports.
The game’s beauty is its dailiness and its lack of a clock. While it’s got real pace-of-play issues, minimizing the meaning of a 162-game regular season with a 12-team playoff field was a foolish move.
So too is this balanced schedule.
NBA teams play only 19.5 percent of their regular-season games against division foes, a shockingly low number. NHL teams play 32 percent and in the NFL, with their new 17-game schedule, teams’ home-and-home division series amount to 35 percent of a season.
Baseball was at 47 percent.
To win a division, a team was going to have to really withstand the competition of the other four teams it was grouped. Play a rival 19 times and you better figure it out to some degree as you build and manage your roster.
But next year that drops more in line with the NHL and the NFL, down to 32 percent.
If the Yanks can’t handle the Red Sox or vice versa, well, they’ll probably be able to get away with it more easily.
Rivalries Are Lifeblood Of MLB
And those two missing series a year will add up over time if this schedule sticks, helping dull rivalries that feel like a big part of the sports’ lifeblood.
Division rivals and their fans need to feel more passion about each other not less, and that’s not happening with fewer head-to-head opportunities.
“[T]his fan-friendly format provides fans with the opportunity to see more opponent matchups, with a particular focus on dramatically expanding our most exciting Interleague matchups, and offers more national exposure to the star players throughout our game,” MLB said in a statement about the schedule alteration.
Well, what’s the most exciting interleague matchup for Boston?
The Braves or the Mets, a Red Sox fan friend tells me. The Dodgers and Cardinals are intriguing for anyone who doesn’t play them regularly.
Those all get dramatically expanded.
The tradeoff is so will the Red Sox’s dealings with the Diamondbacks, Pirates and Marlins.
At the expense of game against the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays it just doesn’t work.
Paul Kuharsky hosts Outkick 360. Read more of him at PaulKuharsky.com.