You're not really supposed to whine in baseball. But you have to feel for the bottom three teams in the American League East just a little, don't you? Because as Peter Schmuck notes, that division just isn't fair:
- It's not a new issue, but it will become more of an issue in Baltimore if Andy MacPhail succeeds in building the Orioles into a more formidable competitor in the American League East.
Both the current alignment of the American League and the unbalanced schedule that amplifies the economic imbalance in major league baseball have created an unforgiving landscape where - for the also-rans of the division - the horizon never seems to get any closer.
The Orioles aren't complaining, mind you, because they know how that would look, and it wouldn't do any good anyway, but they aren't the only ones who have noticed the inequities of a system that requires them to play almost a quarter of their regular-season schedule against the two highest-payroll teams in the American League and nearly half of it in the game's most competitively and economically unbalanced division.
"The committee that the commissioner has set up is looking at a lot of things," said Katy Feeney, Major League Baseball's senior vice president for scheduling and club relations, in a telephone interview Friday. "The commissioner said everything would be discussed. In that sense, anything's possible, but all of the possible schedules and realignment ideas, everything has been looked at for a lot of years. There's not a whole lot out there that's new."
This is where it gets complicated. I just want a balanced schedule where everybody in each league plays everybody the same number of times. Feeney, who analyzes this kind of stuff for a living, knows that it's a lot more complicated than just booting up your scheduling software and clicking on the "balanced schedule" icon.
The real villain here is interleague play, which - in its current form - makes a balanced league schedule impractical and nearly impossible with the scheduling restrictions in the collective bargaining agreement. Selig might claim it's not a sacred cow, but it's pretty close.
Trust me, it's not just the Orioles. Here's the problem, though: At the moment, there are 27 teams that don't particularly mind the unbalanced schedule, and three teams -- the Orioles, the Rays, and the Jays -- that would love to play more games out of their division.
You can do the math. Toss in the travel issues, and there's just no reason to expect any relief for those three clubs. No, it's not particularly fair. But being particularly fair has never been at the top of the list.