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MLB: Bring back the Cubs’ division rivals! A modest proposal for a more unbalanced schedule

The balanced schedule creates issues. Here’s a possible fix.

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Over the first weekend of July, the Cleveland Guardians visited Wrigley Field.

The weather in Chicago turned out to be awful that weekend. It rained most of Saturday and Sunday.

If the Cubs had been hosting a divisional rival on those dates, easy peasy — at least one of those games would have been postponed and played on a future visit. But with the Guardians coming to Wrigley Field only once, and no suitable makeup dates available, the games had to be played. The Cubs did the best they could to get the games in under very difficult conditions.

On Saturday, July 1, the game was delayed two hours and 45 minutes and ended at a few minutes to midnight — even though there was an afternoon game scheduled for Sunday, July 2. With Sunday’s forecast worse than Saturday’s, the Cubs announced at 7:30 a.m. that the scheduled 1:20 p.m. start would be shifted to 4:05 p.m. — and then had another 1:55 of delay after that before the first pitch was thrown at 6 p.m. That’s a total of seven hours and 25 minutes of delays over two days, and some of the action was played in a light rain.

As I’ve previously written, MLB was asking for this sort of thing when they created the balanced schedule for this year. With the unbalanced schedule pre-2023, 14 different teams visited Wrigley every year, with three visits each by teams within a club’s own division. The balanced schedule increases this number to 18 different teams, with only two visits each year from divisional rivals. MLB got lucky this year with reasonably good weather in northern cities in April, including Chicago, but that’s not necessarily going to be the case every year.

You likely remember the short rain delay at Yankee Stadium last Sunday. Not far to the north and west of the Bronx, some areas of New York state got up to eight inches of rain. This sort of extreme weather seems likely to become more frequent in the future, and could affect baseball games in many northern cities. Per the Washington Post:

In some areas, such as at West Point, rain came down so quickly it could be considered a “once-in-1,000 year rainfall event,” based on the probability of it occurring in that spot in any given year, meteorologist Craig Ceecee tweeted. In the Northeast, eight inches of rain would be a typical amount of precipitation for the months of June and July.

Beyond the weather issues, I miss the divisional rivalry games. Until the Cubs played that four-game series in Milwaukee last week, they hadn’t seen the Brewers since early April. And later this month, the Cubs will play the Cardinals eight times in 11 days — and then not again this year.

All of that so that teams can see teams from the other league in their ballpark every other year? Not worth it, in my view.

There has to be a better way. And I have one, a proposal that would still provide opportunities to see many teams play your team, while increasing divisional games — and reducing the overall schedule a bit, which MLB is likely going to want after expansion, to also expand the postseason. (It’s gonna happen, whether you want it to or not.)

Under the current balanced schedule, MLB teams play their divisional rivals 13 times each year (52 total games). The rest of the schedule is filled out this way:

  • Seven games against four teams in your league not in your division (28 games)
  • Six games against the six other teams in your league (36 games)
  • Three games against 14 teams in the other league (42 games)
  • Four games against a “designated rival”

I am going to propose, that instead of playing every team in the other league every year, teams play everyone in two of the three divisions in the other league every year on a rotating basis (10 teams instead of 15). Thus a team would play everyone in the other league in two series every three seasons. That would still have teams playing 24 of the other 29 teams every year. This way everyone would still play most of the other clubs, but increase divisional play, which a lot of fans like. Personally, I would rather see more Cubs vs. Brewers and Cubs vs. Cardinals games than a random series against the Rangers or Royals.

That would take 15 games off the current schedule to be redistributed. Here’s how I would split up the schedule, given that:

  • 15 games against teams in your own division (60 games)
  • Seven games against every other team in your league (70 games)
  • Three games against 10 teams in the other league (30 games)

That’s 160 games, reducing the season by two games. That would mollify teams that don’t want to lose too many home dates (each team would lose just one home date), while giving a couple of extra days for expanded playoffs. Also, seriously, in my view the “designated rival” games have run their course. The Cubs don’t have to play the White Sox in home-and-home, two-game series (total of four games) every single year. One three-game series a year, alternating ballparks, should be enough, so that would have to be accounted for in the divisional rotation. Perhaps the “matching” division — East vs. East, Central vs. Central, West vs. West — could happen every year, with the other two rotated. In addition, this would help reduce travel, by focusing the interleague games against teams in close geographical proximity. Lastly. some teams don’t have obvious same-city or same-state rivals, so those get kind of forced. Examples: The Diamondbacks’ “designated rival” is the Rangers, while the Pirates have the Tigers.

This would reduce the interleague schedule from its current 46 games to 30, which I think is a more reasonable number. It would increase the divisional schedule from its current 13 games vs. each team to 15, which would make divisional play more frequent, something I think is important. The Cubs, for example, will play 30 games this September, but only 10 of those games will be against N.L. Central opponents (Reds, 4; Pirates, 3; Brewers, 3), and none against the Cardinals. They’ll have 16 games vs. N.L. West teams in September.

I don’t have any illusions that MLB will implement my idea, but I think it would be better for everyone. What do you think?


Regarding the MLB schedule...

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    ... the way it’s split up now is fine with me
    (172 votes)
  • 23%
    ... it should be changed to the split detailed in the article
    (98 votes)
  • 30%
    ... it should go back to the way it was before 2023
    (126 votes)
  • 4%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (19 votes)
415 votes total Vote Now