Thoughts on the unfair interleague schedule | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

This is a baseball post, but I’m going to begin it with a point about football. I’ve often thought that one of the most unfair things in sports is the NFL overtime rule. For those of you who are unfamiliar, when an NFL game ends tied in regulation play, it moves into “sudden death” overtime, where the first team to score wins the game. If the team with the first possession scores on that possession, the game ends without the other team even getting to touch the ball in overtime. In other words, this is like if a tie baseball game ended after the visiting team scored in the top of the 10th, without the home team getting a chance to bat.

Clearly, this is patently unfair, but it will often be defended, usually by some variation of the argument, “the better team’s defense should be able to stop the other team from scoring first.” This is plain nonsense. There has never been a football team so great it has an impregnable defense; if the other team can end the game by scoring first, that team has an advantage. However, in football and in all sports, there seems to be a prevailing attitude that there are winning teams and losing teams, and no matter what obstacles you throw in their way, winning teams just win. I believe that, to the extent sabermetrics has central tenets, one of them is that there are not “winning teams” and “losing teams”, but better teams and worse teams, and if you throw obstacles in the way of a better team, they start to look like one of the worse teams.

So, with this attitude in mind, let’s consider what happened in the NL Central race this week. The Cardinals and Brewers enter play today tied atop the division, with the Cards making up a three game deficit by sweeping the Orioles while the Crew was swept by the Yankees. The Yankees have the best record in the American League, and have a staggering run differential of +1.5 runs per game, by far the best in baseball (the only other team with a +1 run per game run differential is the Red Sox, who of course the Brewers also had to face). The Orioles, meanwhile, have the 3rd worst record in the AL, and the second worst run differential, at -0.7 per game. So, yes, the Brewers and Cardinals are tied atop the Central, but this is like a tie between two marathon runners, one of whom had to run through a dense forest filled with hilly terrain and rodents of unusual size while the other got to run on a moving walkway. There’s no two ways around the fact that it’s unfair.

The Brewers won’t gain much sympathy for complaining about this, and at any rate, it won’t accomplish much; the schedule can’t be changed and the games can’t be unplayed. To use a postgame interview cliché, it is what it is. But let’s not try to pretend it’s fair, and above all, let’s not try to pretend that if the Brewers truly deserved to win the division, they’d be imbued with some sort of magic winning team mojo that allows them to stand down one of best teams in the league. The Brewers have a great baseball team; unfortunately, they had to face an obstacle that made them look worse than they are.

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Comments

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  1. Brian Bennett says: July 1, 2011

    Alex,
    I agree with your statement that the schedule is unfair. However, as a Brewer fan, I believe the Brewers were given a great opportunity to play one of the best teams in baseball at their homefield. The entire team needs more experience playing good teams in hostile environments if they hope to accomplish anything in the playoffs. I’m hoping that the players and coaching staff learned a lot about themselves at Yankee Stadium as we proceed with the second half of the season. In particular, we need to figure out the reason for the poor record on the road quickly. In general, the Brewers will only improve and understand their weaknesses by playing better teams. Beating Pittsburg ten more times will not help them much in September. For example, the Packers loss in New England last year demostrated they could compete with anyone even though they lost the game. BB

  2. Russell Henley says: July 1, 2011

    I’m a Cardinal fan, and I agree with you 100%. If baseball continues to have schedule imbalances like this, I’d prefer they removed interleague play altogether.

  3. Dave says: July 1, 2011

    Come on man, the brewers play the Twins who have (by far) the worst run differential in the American league (-1.03) in this coming series. Why didn’t you mention that in your article? The fact is the season is 162 games. Everything works its way out in the end. The Brewers play the Cardinals 18 times this season. Whoever has the most wins at the end of 162 games deserves the division crown. We aren’t even at the all star break yet so stop making excuses and have some faith in your team.

  4. Sean says: July 2, 2011

    I’m not a fan of interleague play, so it’s fine by me to axe it, but while it’s here I think these match ups work in favor and against each team year by year. It seems more psychological having to face a few extra heavyweights, and in the long term might serve the young Brewers well. But I see your point, and it is slightly unfavorable to the Brewers… but at least be thankful you have a healthy Fielder, Braun, Grienke and Marcum; Cardinals fans think it’s mighty unfair the Baseball God’s struck Wainright (season), Puljos (good chunk of season) and Holiday (in and out all season) with injuries. Should be an interesting second half, I have a feeling Cincy isn’t done just yet either – good luck. – fan of the banged up Birds

  5. Smith says: July 2, 2011

    I’m still waiting for the Red Sox to travel to Milwaukee one of these days. Seems like the Brewers always have to head out there for interleague.

  6. mikkyld says: July 3, 2011

    First I think the schedules teams play should be the same – period.

    However given that they are not, it seems disingenuous to complain about it, since the advantage does sway back and forth.

    A few years ago the cards got the yanks and the sawx on the road while their main contender got the pre being good rays and orioles. Stuff happens.

    The team that beats its main opponent during the year is likely the one who will win the division as long as it doesn’t die to other foes anyway.

  7. Flharfh says: July 3, 2011

    Brewers play the Yankees x3 and Red Sox x3. Cardinals play the Royals x6. At least if the Brewers win the division, there shouldn’t be any arguing about which is the better team.

  8. Monty says: July 6, 2011

    Despite the NFL overtime rule sucking in regular season, in playoffs it does allow the kicking team a chance to score if receiving team scores on a FG on first possession. Why that rule isn’t done in regular season is beyond me.

  9. travis says: February 26, 2012

    WOW! Guess i missed this article. brewers fans will complain about anything huh? And they call the cards crybabys!

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