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As ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reported this week, Major League Baseball is working on its most significant changes to the schedule in a decade and a half. The folks involved are still a long way from settling on anything, but here's more detail on some of the changes being contemplated:
Interleague: The thinking behind reducing the number of "rivalry" games has nothing to do with the rivalries themselves. It's an attempt to have all teams in a division play as close to the same schedule as possible. So every team in each NL division will likely play one series each against the same five teams in a rotating AL division every year. Then the only difference in all of their schedules will be the three or four "rivalry" games that will fill out every team's interleague schedule. Each team would play either 18 or 20 interleague games apiece under the new format. The exact number hasn't been decided.
|Good news, baseball fans: The battle for West Coast supremacy between the Padres and Mariners will continue in 2013.|
Assigning rivals: It's now going to be mandatory that each team have some sort of interleague rival. But a few teams will rotate rivals. In the AL East/NL East, the Red Sox and Blue Jays will "share" rivalries with the Braves and Phillies. In the AL West/NL West, the Rangers and Astros will "share" rivalries with the Diamondbacks and Rockies. And elsewhere, you'll get Pirates-Tigers and Padres-Mariners every darned year -- for now anyway.
Unbalanced or balanced? Are there teams -- particularly in the AL East -- pushing for a more balanced schedule? Absolutely. But they've been overruled. In general, owners and players have agreed, at this point, that since the new postseason format puts much greater importance on finishing first, it makes sense to keep the schedule unbalanced. But sources say the schedule czars would prefer to limit intradivision games to 18 per team. It's possible, if the math doesn't work, that that could change slightly. But the powers that be prefer not to make the schedule any more unbalanced than it already is. And we sure hope they succeed.