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And Now Back To Our Regularly Rescheduled Program

With the sadness that the entire baseball world still feels today after the tragic death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, baseball does go on, with the Cardinals in Milwaukee (that game's on ESPN, incidentally, and I'll be interested to see if the Brewers do any sort of tribute) and the Cubs in Pittsburgh tonight.

And, of course, there's the necessity of rescheduling last night's postponed game. Here's where things get a little bit tricky. The next time the Cubs travel to St. Louis is July 24-26. The two clubs have a common off day on July 23, and the Cardinals have another off day on July 30, so they'd be OK with the MLB rule that prevents teams from having to play on more than 20 consecutive days.

But the Cubs don't have that extra July off day -- if they played on July 23, they'd be playing on 31 consecutive days after the All-Star break, and that'd be 32 if they do go ahead and schedule their April 11 makeup date vs. Houston on July 12, as was the original plan. That's something the Astros are balking at -- they want to play that game on June 11, the day after they finish their interleague series at the Cell vs. the White Sox.

The Cubs, understandably, don't want to do this as they are finishing a road trip to Atlanta on June 10, and that game still might be requested by ESPN as their Sunday night game that day.

And this could become even further complicated. Look at this note buried in Phil Rogers' column yesterday:

Thumbs down to the Cubs, if they refuse to move a June 12-14 series against Seattle up a day to help accommodate rescheduling of the Mariners' six rained-out dates, including an entire four-game series against Cleveland. Seattle player representative Willie Bloomquist told the Seattle Times the Cubs nixed that proposed move, which would have allowed the Mariners to play a doubleheader in Cleveland on June 14, a scheduled travel day between Chicago and Houston. It's going to take cooperation from a lot of people to get the Mariners and Indians to 162 games this year.

Well, wait just a second here, Phil. You're saying the Cubs should inconvenience thousands of fans who have bought tickets thinking they'd be going to games on June 12-14, switching the games to June 11-13, just to bail out MLB for scheduling the only visit by Seattle to Cleveland during a time when bad weather could -- and did -- wipe out an entire series?

That Seattle/Cleveland series was a fiasco from day one. Bad judgment to the umpires for that series, who should have allowed the first game to play out one more hitter, perhaps allowing it to become official and forcing only three games to be made up, rather than four. Further bad judgment to the schedulemakers, and not because they scheduled early-season games in Cleveland. It was a freak snowstorm that wiped those games out -- it could just as easily have been nice in Cleveland the first weekend of the season. The problem isn't the dates, it's that they scheduled the only visit by a team to a city during that time. Had the visiting team been an AL Central opponent of the Indians, rescheduling would have become far easier, as divisional rivals make more than one visit to every city each season.

But I say Phil Rogers is wrong. It's not the Cubs' responsibility to move an entire series to fix this problem. Unfortunately, the Indians are probably going to lose a home date or two to make up these games -- the best option is likely to play some or all of them in September in Seattle, when the Indians make their only visit there.

Back to the Cubs -- with this second postponement, it appears likely that the April 11 game vs. the Astros, seemingly ticketed to be played on the July 12 off-day (logical, right?) will instead be played as part of a day-night doubleheader on one of the other dates in that series (though how they're going to do this is beyond me, considering that the Cubs are prohibited by ordinance from playing night games on Fridays and Saturday), and last night's postponement will be made up as part of a conventional doubleheader during the Cubs' next trip to St. Louis.

For 24 years, beginning in 1981, MLB's schedule was made out by Henry and Holly Stephenson, who worked mainly by hand. After the 2004 season the job, put out for bids, was won by the Sports Scheduling Group of Pittsburgh:

Katy Feeney, MLB's senior vice president for scheduling, said the exact reason for Sports Scheduling Group landing the contract over the Stephensons was tough to pinpoint. "The scheduling process is very difficult," Ms. Feeney said. "The one thing they did have for 2005 was fewer semi-repeaters, (periods when a team plays one team for a few days, then plays a different team and then plays the first team again), and they also had somewhat awkward travel, but the ownership committee decided to go with Sports Scheduling Group this year."
To the thing about "semi-repeaters", I say: "So what?" It appears that Henry and Holly Stephenson did a better overall job. MLB has some work to do before the 2008 schedule is drafted, to avoid the myriad of problems they've had in 2007, only a month into the season.