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In the name of parity, the scheduling trick baseball should borrow from the NFL … and more


DETROIT – Perhaps the biggest element behind the NFL’s success is parity. Parity, which is perhaps at the core of baseball’s largest problems. The salary-cap and reverse-of-standings draft promote parity, as do shorter careers.


But the schedule does, too.


The schedule is not only shorter to give us the wacky products of small sample sizes, but the best teams are given more difficult schedules. It makes for both good television and the compression of standings.




(Bud are you listening? I have an idea …)


Baseball has this to a degree. Teams play more games within their division, which means big market coastal teams are playing more games against each other than the teams in fly-over country.


But baseball could, and perhaps ought, to go a step further with their inter-league schedule.


Does it really make much sense for the Pirates, which haven’t had a winning season pre-internet, to be playing the powerhouse Tigers while the Cardinals are playing the lowly Royals as their inter-league rival?


I don’t think so. I’m not saying the Cardinals shouldn’t have a geographic rival … but perhaps inter-league should be weighted where the best teams are scheduled to more often than not play the best teams. It will make for better TV, and i t will help compress the standings and keep more teams in races come September.


I don’t know if it’s possible, maybe the toothpaste is out of the tube, but baseball needs to try to win back a share of September from football.


Yes, a lot of different clubs have won the World Series recently, which owners point to as progress toward parity. But really there have just a handful of small-market clubs that have a chance any given September. To really draw fan interest back, more mid- and small-market teams need to have a chance going into the final month.


Division races should separate baseball. It’s a long season. September baseball needs to be special to more teams and it can start with an inter-league schedule tweak.


Because the Pirates playing the Tigers in May, is not going to help the Pirates’ chances of playing in a meaningful game in September.




*It was a day late, and it cost the Pirates a game, but the front office did the right thing in sending Jose Contreras to the DL with an apparent injury and recalling Bryan Morris.


*Mike Zagurski is an intriguing guy out of the pen. Most teams struggle to find one left-handed situational pitcher and with Justin Wilson hitting 97 mph and Zagurski hitting 93 mph with some depth to his slider the Pirates might have found two.


*Jeanmar Gomez really wants to hang on to his rotation spot. I suspect Gerrit Cole or Charlie Morton will eventually grab it. I suspect more of Gomez’s groundballs will become base hits, but give Gomez credit for staying within himself and playing his game. He hasn’t been afraid to pitch to contact.


*Neil Walker looks like he’s found his rhythm. A game-winning HR and three hits last night, his second HR in four games. Walker and Andrew McCutchen haven’t played their best baseball yet which should help the Pirates stave off dramatic regression.

– TS

(Twitter: @Sawchik_Trib)



  1. JuniataKid says:

    Baseball used to have the most fair and balanced system possible — playing everyone in your league an equal number of times and not seeing the other league unless you made the World Series. Whoever won the most games in that scenario won the league. Now, if you want to take the top four and make them the playoff teams, fine. Personally, I’d prefer that set-up to what we have now because, 1) I get tired of seeing the same Central Division teams over and over and over with the unbalanced schedule. 2) I’d like to see more games against the Phillies, Mets, Dodgers, etc. 3) I dislike interleague play. I liked having two separate and distinct leagues. It was unique. We don’t have that anymore. We have what every other sport has: two conferences. And depending on the draw, playing that other league negatively or positively skews the chances of your team making the payoffs in your own league.

    So my solution: two leagues, no divisions, no interleague, top four from the two leagues make the playoffs. Problem solved.

  2. Travis Sawchik says:

    I would like to see a balanced schedule. And I’d be OK with leaving inter-league play in the history bin. But I like the three division setup as it keeps most of the game’s big markets together … giving fly-over country teams a shot at playoff berths

  3. Mark Hegerle says:

    If MLB wants meaningful games in September to compete with the NFL, the best solution is to shorten the season. Does it really take 162 games to decide which teams belong in the playoffs? If the NLCS, ALCS, and World Series were played in September, MLB may pull some eyes away from the NFL (and avoid playing baseball in the snow).

  4. There is NOTHING better than a Duke-Carolina basketball game! There’s not much better than a Clemson-South Carolina or Georgia-Georgia Tech football game. I applaud baseball for trying to hook their wagons on rivalry. Geographical rivalries make the most sense.
    I dislike interleague baseball almost as much as I detest the DH. But “It ain’t changin’!” The White Sox have trouble selling out their seats, but they have a full stadium with the Cubs. Houston will sell out with the Rangers in town. Do you think the Royals would sell more seats with the Pirates, or with the Cardinals, coming to Royals Stadium? Interleague Play is about the Benjamins.
    The Pirates play more games against similar sized teams in their own division. Winning or finishing 2nd in their division against those similar teams is what will have them playing meaningful games in September, not scheduling “made for TV” matchups amongst the Big Boys . . . . and leaving the “dregs” to play one another.
    Plus, I’d rather attend a Pirates-Yankees or Pirates-Red Sox game instead of a Mariners game.
    The short season, one game a week, NFL schedule does not equate to Major League baseball! Apples and persimmons! Plus, it looks like my Pirates are doing better than OK against those “powerhouse Tigers.”

  5. Mark says:

    Rotating schedule like the NFL uses. There are very few natural geographic rivalries. Yanks/Mets, Sox/Cubs, Nats/Orioles, LAA/LAD, the rest are forced. Boston/Philly? Pit/Det?

  6. Clemson Travis,
    I know you are new to the area. I enjoy your writing and am glad you are here.

    Just a heads up: Pittsburgh area people do NOT cotton to being called “fly-over country.” And we definitely do not want to keep hearing about our small market status. Those designations are from “outsiders” and they irritate us. We do not like excuses made either for us or by us.
    Poor people do NOT like being called poor. I know——I grew up that way. Ugly people do not like being called ugly——of course, YOU know that one is true!! (I jest: I have never seen your mug!)
    Your continued designations of those Pirate epitaphs (truly what they are), even if accurate, will not help you win the hearts of your new constituency here. Western PA folks don’t want excuses——they want production.
    Write the truth, but write it so it can be heard by your readers!
    Just a few observations as a heads up. Live long and prosper!

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