Major League Baseball has a scheduling problem that shouldn’t be an issue because the league holds all the power when it comes to deciding which teams will play each other and when. 

No one is denying that making a schedule of 162 games for 30 different teams is difficult and will lead to some late-season matchups that, frankly, are lacking in excitement or enthusiasm. That’s understandable since we know not every team will be competing for a playoff spot. 

But trying to piece together September series that can, in theory, generate a lot of buzz based on expectations should be a bigger focus for the people making the schedule. 

While we may not have the perfect solution to make everyone happy, these are some of our best ideas for how MLB can make the September schedule in baseball better than what we are going to get this year. 


Save More Division Games

Allow me to paint a picture for you. When the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-2, on Sunday, the two teams were tied for first place in the NL Central with identical 79-57 records. 

With just one month of games left to go, this is the most intense division battle left (especially if you include Cincinnati in that mix). That was also the last time the Cardinals and Pirates will play in the 2013 regular season. 

Moving forward, the NL Central will be decided by the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds playing different teams. The one saving grace in this mess is the Pirates and Reds will play each other six more times, but we have to watch them beat up on the likes of the Cubs, Brewers, Rockies and Padres along the way. 

This isn’t the only division with that problem. The Tigers, who admittedly have pulled away in the AL Central and should win it in a walk, finished their season series with the Indians on Sunday.

Now, the Indians have the benefit of playing teams like Houston, Chicago and Minnesota 14 times in the last 17 days. Everything sets up for them to make the postseason, while fellow Wild Card contenders in Tampa Bay has to play Boston, Texas, Baltimore and New York over a two-week stretch. 

I know it’s not MLB’s fault that the Twins and White Sox, Cleveland’s remaining AL Central competition, are so bad. But to think that the Indians are already done with the Tigers with more than 20 games still to play is a joke while a much better Tampa Bay team has a brutal stretch of games still to go. 

The best thing that MLB can do to fix this issue is follow its current model with a slight modification. MLB will make it so as many teams as possible are playing division games during the final weekend of the season. 

I say, why not take things a step further? Would it really be that hard to make it so teams are playing all but one series in the month of September against division foes?

I understand there has to be a break somewhere in there because the numbers don’t add up for all 30 teams to be playing divisional rivals, and that’s fine. But there is no reason the A’s should be playing seven games against Minnesota while Texas has to face Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. 

If MLB wants to ensure winning the division is the most important thing—it became one of the defining reasons for Bud Selig to implement the second Wild Card last year—make sure the teams competing for the division title are playing each other at least three times in the final month. 


The Interleague Factor

One of the more hot-button issues among fans is what to do with the designated hitter. Traditionalists try to argue that the DH is one of the worst things to happen to baseball in the last 40 years, while others can defend the merits of it based on the type of baseball it produces and fact that pitchers are at risk for enough injuries on the mound that we don’t need to compound it by putting them in a batter’s box. 

This season, thanks to Houston’s move from the NL Central to the AL West, there has been year-round interleague play. Some like it, some don’t, and some didn’t notice because the concept has been around for 15 years and lost a lot of luster. 

But now in the final month of the season, we get to see just how much impact it can have on a pennant race. Putting the two sides together down the stretch creates a lot of problems that could play a pivotal role down the stretch. 

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who doesn’t have to worry about the playoff race, voiced his concern at the new system when speaking to John Schlegel of earlier this season. 

“There’s going to be complications with it. Teams fighting in the last month and you’re going to play Interleague, and you’re an American League team and your pitchers are having to hit, you have to change your whole game in September in a pennant race when you’re one game behind a team or something. That can be tough.”

So what is MLB to do about this mess?

Well, despite the insistence of those “traditionalists” not recognizing the advantages to lengthening a lineup, the simplest solution would be to adopt the DH in both leagues so there doesn’t have to be a different style played. 

I would suggest that MLB drop the DH altogether, but it isn’t going to happen, and I don’t believe it should, nor do I want to keep seeing pitchers hit because it isn’t entertaining to watch.

Therefore, the only thing to do is put the DH in both leagues to save AL teams from having to put their pitchers in the box in the fourth inning with the bases loaded. 

That would also allow NL teams to start building rosters with the DH in mind, possibly evening up the gap between the two leagues that has formed because AL offenses are better and deeper than the senior circuit. 

You don’t think there is an NL team out there that would like to place a bid on David Ortiz if they had the ability to do so?

Even if this idea is more about protecting pitchers and helping to make the NL closer to the AL, it does help the September schedule because we don’t have to worry about seeing an inferior version of an AL lineup going on the road to play in an NL park. 


Use The Gift of Knowledge

The final piece of the September scheduling puzzle is a bit trickier to pull off than anything mentioned before because it essentially requires MLB to play favorites with a select group of teams. 

We know that every year there are going to be a few surprise teams throwing a monkey wrench into the playoff race. Last season, for instance, Baltimore and Oakland came from obscurity to win a Wild Card spot and division title, respectively. 

Washington’s rebuilding effort came together faster than anyone would have thought with a 98-win campaign in 2012. 

But the other playoff teams (New York, Detroit, Texas, Atlanta, St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Francisco) were all expected to be at or near the top of their respective divisions. 

This year is a similar story. Boston wasn’t expected to be the best team in the AL, though everyone figured the Red Sox would be much better than they were in 2012. Pittsburgh has been able to put most of its second-half woes the previous two years in the rear-view mirror. 

Yet when you look at the current playoff field with Tampa Bay. Detroit, Oakland, Atlanta, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Los Angeles, those are seven teams that received a lot of preseason hype and are supposed to be here. 

All of that is to say MLB has at least some idea of which teams will be competing for a playoff spot. You can’t account for surprises, but a vast majority of playoff teams will be the ones we expected when the season started. 

So MLB should take that knowledge and apply it when making the schedule. The schedule is made well before free agency, so it is impossible to factor in what happens during the hot-stove season. (No one would have predicted Cleveland would spend $104 million on Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.)

Yet if you know Boston is going to be better, with Tampa Bay and Baltimore figuring to be good again, they should be playing against each other. A lot. We luck out this season with the Red Sox having nine games in the final 2.5 weeks against the Rays and Orioles. They also have seven games against the Yankees. 

But St. Louis and Pittsburgh have to rely on other teams to settle things in the NL Central. Cleveland is at the mercy of teams like the White Sox, Mariners, Twins and Marlins in the Central, while Oakland has to hope the Indians can’t beat the Twins, White Sox and Astros in the final two weeks to secure a Wild Card spot. 

If the rest of the world can accurately predict most of the playoff field, as well as the teams that will be fighting for one of the last remaining spots, why isn’t MLB using that knowledge to its benefit when making the schedule?

Since back-loading division games can be problematic from a logistic standpoint, find other ways to put marquee matchups on the table. 

I have no interest in seeing the Indians-Astros play at the end of the year with the possibility of a playoff spot on the line. I would, however, love to see what happens if you put the Indians and Athletics together for a three- or four-game series in the final weeks of the season. 


If you want to talk baseball, feel free to hit me on Twitter with questions or comments. 

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