Schedule Inflexibility Hurts Phillies, Orioles, Others

The threat and eventual reality of Hurricane Irene caused many teams along the East coast to reformat their remaining schedules. The Phillies, for instance, rescheduled their Sunday afternoon game with the Florida Marlins to Saturday as part of a day-night double-header. Irene showed up early and washed both games out, forcing the Phillies to move both games to September 15, their last scheduled off-day of the regular season. From August 29 to September 28, the Phillies will play 33 games in 31 days.

The Baltimore Orioles have had it tougher than anyone. Along with hurricane preparation, they have had to deal with the suicide of team icon and fan-favorite Mike Flanagan. The Yankees, in an attempt to save their last remaining off-day on September 15, wanted to schedule a double-header for Friday, but the Orioles had already planned a tribute to Flanagan and did not agree to the change. Of course, this started some back-and-forth between representatives of both teams.

Ultimately, the problem lies with Major League Baseball and its rather inflexible scheduling. We had warning of Irene several days in advance, but the most any team could do was to schedule day-night double-headers either to the end of the upcoming series or to a remaining series in September, if one existed. Or, they could move a game to one of the few remaining off-days left before the end of the season.

In the past, MLB has received criticism for downtime in the post-season. As a result, the Division Series now starts on September 30, giving teams just one off-day after the end of the regular season. The DS is scheduled to last through October 7, so if the any series goes all five games, the winning team could play the very next day as the League Championship Series starts on October 8.

The MLB schedule assumes the best possible outcome, which is that all games are played as scheduled; acts of God are not an interference. While, in some years, this may turn out to be the case, when an act of God does mess up the scheduling, MLB should be more flexible in giving teams additional days in which to make up their games. A team should not be forced to cram two double-headers into a schedule that no longer includes off-days in the next calendar month.

What the inflexibility forces teams to do is take unnecessary risks with their players. There is a reason why the MLBPA agreement stipulates that teams cannot be scheduled to play on more than 20 consecutive days — injury risk. The Players Association is there to look out for the players’ best interests; MLB does not, insofar as the players continue to make them money.

Wouldn’t it be an awful post-season if the Phillies limped into the post-season with several additional players on the DL because of the unfair and inflexible scheduling, and couldn’t put their best lineup on the field? If you are a fan of a team not involved in the post-season, would you watch a game where the Phillies put out a lineup that includes Wilson Valdez at shortstop, Michael Martinez at third base, and Ben Francisco in the outfield? How would that be good for baseball?

As the MLBPA agreement will be up for debate after the season, it is a good time to add more stipulations to the scheduling rules and add in some flexibility. Balancing that flexibility with the concerns of the season being too long — there have been suggestions to cut the regular season by a few games — will be tough, but ultimately, it will have everyone’s interests at heart: the players first and foremost, valuing their short- and long-term health; the teams, for the aforementioned reason; the fans, by ensuring that teams have a reasonable ability to put the best team on the field at all times; and MLB, by protecting its assets (the players).

Just to throw an idea out there, teams could have a “flex week”, which is basically a week after the regular season where they would have time to make up any games not able to be reasonably rescheduled during the regular season, assuming they must be made up (i.e. would have an effect on post-season berths or seeding). The start of the post-season would be pushed back to allow these games to be made up. If no team needs to take advantage of this “flex week”, then the playoffs kick off as scheduled.

Obviously, that’s just one rough idea, but it’s a start and better than what exists currently, which is a rigid, unforgiving schedule that benefits exactly no one.

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7 comments

  1. Richard Hershberger

    August 29, 2011 09:06 AM

    I’m not disagreeing with your conclusion, but I note that the Phillies did have an option they didn’t exercise. They could have scheduled the first game for Saturday morning at 10:00. Morning games are occasionally played in the minors and work just fine. Schedule the first game for 10:00 and the second for 3:00.

    As it turns out, they would have only gotten the first one in, but that would still have put them ahead. Instead, they played their own little game of best-case chicken and lost.

  2. Buzzsaw

    August 29, 2011 09:47 AM

    Or they could have coverted Friday into the doubleheader day instead of waiting until the storm was a day closer.

    Heck, Sunday was a better day to play two.

    Seems like you could have 2 Thursdays in September where no team is scheduled to play just to accomodate whatever rainouts need to be replayed.

  3. hk

    August 29, 2011 12:11 PM

    The teams are definitely part of the scheduling problems as all or almost all teams insist on day-night doubleheaders these days to get two gates instead of traditional double headers where the fans get two games for the price of one.

  4. Ryan Spear

    August 30, 2011 09:28 AM

    Listen, I’m as big a Phillies fan as anybody out there but I hate the accepted concept that these guys are made out of glass. They get paid to play baseball – now before you judge or respond think about that… it is their job, their life and they make more in one year than the average person reading this will make in their lifetime. If they can’t manage their way through this and keep key players healthy by using extra men, etc. if necessary then they don’t deserve squat.

    Man up!

  5. Phillie697

    August 30, 2011 10:39 PM

    @Ryan

    This isn’t actually about the players. You make it sound like it’s done for the players’ benefits. Yes, to some degree it is, but it’s about the FANS. Like Bill said, how would you like a post-season where half of a team’s starting lineup is out? How would that be putting quality product on the field? Professional baseball players don’t work at the garbage dump like you do, where nobody cares if you occasionally don’t show up to work or not because of injuries. When they are hurt, the product suffers, and the fans don’t get their money’s worth. You can say all you want about how they should “man up.” If you have scientific study showing how “manning up” makes people get injured less and therefore improve the quality of the product being put on the field, by all means, present the study here.

    You really think Bill wrote this column for the players’ benefit? I mean, I’m sure he cares about the players the same way he doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, maybe slightly more because he’s a fan, but in the end, Bill wrote this for his OWN fan-motivated reasons; he wants to see the best Phillies team playing during the playoffs, so we have the best chance of winning a World Series. It’s not about how much the players make and how they should man up; I wish it was only that simple.

  6. Bill Baer

    August 31, 2011 01:08 AM

    The phrase “man up”, and the attitude behind it, needs to be completely abolished from society. It is monumentally stupid and sexist.

    If survival of the fittest was actually able to be played out as nature intended it, the “man up” crowd would never procreate because they would take stupid risks and get themselves killed to prove their machismo.

  7. Win

    August 31, 2011 10:11 PM

    The Phillies have only three series left that are against likely playoff teams, two of them come well before the previously scheduled day off, and one comes when neither team will likely be doing anything other than setting their rotations for the NLDS. Unfortunately the 5th-11th is probably going top be the last remotely meaningful stretch of games for the Phillies until October. After that it’s basically going to be Manuel figuring out what he wants to do with his bench, I’m sure Herndon and Kendrick are really bored anyway.

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