I rarely pay attention to the next season’s schedule when it’s released in the late summer, as it’s just not something that has salience for me at that point. Sometimes I might take a good. high-level look at it over the winter, but with the spectre of a prolonged disruption due to the lockout potentially or even likely upending a swatch of it, I never got around it.
Even in season, I seldom pay much attention to what’s upcoming over the next week, at least until and unless the stakes are higher later in the year. As a result, each week comes as a bit of a revelation, and in 2022 it’s been just how terribly this schedule has been put together. it was as though there was no thought put towards any practicalities.
Most have focussed on how front loaded the schedule is, with the Toronto Blue Jays facing a gauntlet to start the season. In the first five weeks, they’ve had nine games against the Yankees, the Red Sox seven and the Astros six, all expected to be strong contenders. That’s a total of 22 of the first 32, with six more to come against the Rays and Mariners who are in the same boat before things ease up.
This actually doesn’t really bother me from a competitive standpoint, since the schedule is the schedule and everything evens out over 162 games. Instead, my complaint here would be more aesthetic, it just gets boring seeing the same teams over and over again in the short period. The unbalanced schedules almost inevitably result in overexposure for fans to teams in the division, but it’s overkill when half of the 19 games are then packed into little more than a month.
I realize it’s impractical to perfectly distribute things, but with six divisional series and six months, it should be possible to get closer to one series per month. Open the season with a tour of the division over the first say three weeks (when everything is fresh), the last month is already rightfully concentrated, and then sprinkle the rest throughout.
Likewise, on the flip side, when there’s only two series against other teams in the league throughout the year, it drives me nuts when they come right on the heels of each other. Again, from the fan standpoint you see that team and those players essentially once, and then never again. It’s ridiculous that the Jays are entirely done wit the Astros before they’ve even had any of their 19 each against Tampa Bay and Baltimore
But on top of that there’s competitive implications when this happens. Catch a bad team in the right stretch when they’re playing well, and instead of an expected 4-2 you might be 2-4. Granted, this should mostly even out over 162 games, but a concentrated schedule increases the chance of things breaking weirdly and it potentially being decisive in a close division of wild card card (like last year).
But that’d not even my biggest grievance with the schedule, which is the utter lack of balance when it comes to the distribution of off-days. The Blue Jays had games scheduled for 30 of the first 31 days of the calendar through last Sunday, then now two off days in the space of four days. And then another the Thursday a week later, the Wednesday after that, and the following Monday. All told, they’ve have five off days in little more than three weeks after one in the first four weeks.
And it doesn’t end there. After that run of off-days, in the six weeks from May 30th to July 10th, the Jays have two off-days before one a week before the All-Star break. Then coming out of that, there’s a day off the Monday after a single series. After that, it’s mercifully much more distributed, but the first half is flat out ridiculous.
Not to make excuses, but it’s hard to think the recent struggles aren’t at least somewhat related to the effects of that long grind catching up to them. It’s not the schedule makers fault the first week of the season was nuked and the Jays ended up off the first day of the season (April 7th), but even with the original schedule it would have been lopsided.
Again, I’m not asking for perfection, but it didn’t have to be this way. Most specifically, the Jays had a four game series at the Yankees in early April, and a two game series there this week. Having the first Thursday game to this past Monday when both teams were scheduled off would have been an easy adjustment without any other implications (Jays were travelling from Cleveland, the Yankees the homestand, so no gruelling travel implications).
There’s one last bit of further ignominity, that just exemplifies the lack of any coherent planning. The Jays are away on Victoria Day (aka, just another Monday in May for the other 29 teams), and then off the following Monday on Memorial Day. This “holiday arbitrage” is something that should be a slam dunk gimme for MLB in terms of maximizing revenue.
The Jays are virtually guaranteed a big holiday crowd on their holiday Monday, and then another team would likewise benefit the following week. It would be one thing if 2022 were the exception in this regard, but it’s been the case more years than not. At least this year they managed to get the Canada Day/July 4th split right, another freebie arbitrage opportunity they’ve muffed in the past. Of course, the Jays are on the road for the early August civic holiday on Ontario that isn’t marked in most US jurisdiction.
The bottom line, at many levels when it comes to the schedule: MLB do better. This is pathetic.