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A few thoughts about MLB’s balanced schedule

On balance... I still don’t like it.

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The Cubs, so far, have played two series (five total games) against N.L. Central divisional rivals and two series (six total games) against A.L. West teams.

Two weeks into the season, it’s probably way too early to make comments about MLB’s new balanced schedule. Nevertheless, I’m not going to let that stop me from doing so anyway.

I’m doing this largely because Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer recently made some comments about the balanced schedule, quoted by Meghan Montemurro in the Tribune:

“That’s great for us and great for the fans,” Hoyer said before Tuesday’s game against the Mariners. “Six series against the Pirates or Cardinals or Reds I don’t think is (as) great for the fans as playing a series where you see some players you haven’t seen all the time, so I think it’s wonderful.

“It felt like it was so many games against the division — six series was a lot. It feels weird this year in the sense that we won’t have a lot of division opponents early.”

It’s definitely “weird,” especially when you look at this year’s schedule and don’t find any games against the Cubs’ biggest rival, the Cardinals, until May 8 — that’s Game 35 of the 2023 schedule.

Having now attended games against the Rangers and Mariners, I note this comment about Hoyer from Montemurro’s article:

He’s enjoying getting to watch the Cubs face standouts such as the Texas Rangers’ Corey Seager and the Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez.

Well, yeah, I guess, but... based on the way the new schedule is arranged, these players won’t be back at Wrigley Field for at least two years. So what advantage is being gained here?

I understand, up to a point, why MLB wanted to do this. They’re attempting to make an effort to promote their stars on a national basis. This is something that happens often with NBA and NFL stars, but there are other factors that make that happen in those sports. In the NBA, only five players are on the court at once and rosters usually contain 12 or 13 players. It’s easier to note the stars in a basketball game. All NFL games are televised on national networks and players like quarterbacks and some running backs and receivers get featured often on those broadcasts.

Baseball rosters consist of 26 players and 162 games are played, filling our spring and summer afternoons and evenings. It’s a regionally-televised sport, with only a handful of games on national TV channels, and only a small fraction of those games are on over-the-air broadcast channels, with some shunted to streaming services that baseball fans are resisting subscribing to.

For me, sure, it was great to see Julio Rodriguez play for three days, but now he’s pretty much “that great player from Seattle” that I can see play on MLB.TV or Extra Innings late at night. Which is essentially the way things were before.

Personally, rivalries like Cubs/Cardinals and Cubs/Brewers mean more to me than seeing random stars from American League teams once every other year. The Cubs averaged 29,211 tickets sold for the six games against the Rangers and Mariners, despite spectacularly good weather for early April and the team playing well. That average would almost certainly have been higher if, say, three of those games had been against the Cardinals.

In addition, one lesson MLB is going to learn from scheduling the way they’ve done for the Cubs (for example) is that, “Hey, we can do this, because look at the great weather in the Midwest this month!” Which, as you know, is very unlikely to happen every year in April.

I suspect the ship has sailed on the balanced schedule, but I’d still rather have more divisional rivalry games. I think they mean more to the Cubs franchise than a random April series against the Rangers or Mariners.

And besides, what’s ESPN going to do with fewer Yankees/Red Sox games?


MLB’s balanced schedule...

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Love it! Get to see more players
    (159 votes)
  • 40%
    Hate it! Would rather see more division rivals
    (185 votes)
  • 24%
    Don’t care either way
    (114 votes)
458 votes total Vote Now