Monday, September 23, 2013

The one where Ken Rosenthal makes a point of an unclear nature

Smilin' Ken Rosenthal has some things to say about how the September schedule is shaking out...I'm just not exactly sure what those things are.

The Cleveland Indians’ road to October is all but free of impediment, a parade of cupcake opponents that Terry Francona’s boys are eagerly devouring as the season draws to a close.

Rosenthal's next sentence:
Give the Indians credit — they’re beating the teams in front of them. But make no mistake: The American League wild-card race isn’t close to fair, not when the unbalanced schedule puts AL East contenders at a disadvantage.

Okay, so...what? Who are the Indians beating? Cupcakes (the Astros, of course) or the teams in front of them? Or is it that the teams in front of them aren't playing the Astros as often? And of course, poor AL East. 

Rosenthal's very next paragraph:
The move of the Houston Astros from the NL Central to the AL West last season created six five-team divisions, reducing inequity in the division races; all clubs now play roughly the same opponents as their division rivals.

So...I think the point is that the four worst teams in the American League play in the West and Central (Houston, Seattle, Chicago and Minnesota). And that's not fair for the AL East, who don't play those teams near as often. 

This is my favorite part:
That’s right, the Rangers live in AstroWorld. And my goodness, they should be ashamed if they fail to overtake the Rays or Indians for a wild-card berth. Texas is 14-2 against Houston, a team that much prefers “earning” the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft to winning in 2013. And that’s with three home games against the Astros remaining.
Here is AstroWorld today, and damn if this isn't just a perfect little metaphor:

Yes, the Rangers play their last seven games at home (three vs. Houston, four vs. Anaheim). But let's not forget what got them into their current situation: a September in which the Rangers have gone 5-15 (the Astros are 7-14 in September) featuring series losses to the A's (twice), Angels, Pirates, and Royals. Things may turn around for Rangers in the next three days. Rosenthal calls the Astros series a "gimme," and the Astros have shown absolutely zero interest in winning any games against playoff contenders over the last week.
But here's where it gets weird:
I get it. And I’m fairly certain that baseball would suffer a different form of damage if, say, the Yankees played the Astros as often as they played the Red Sox. Still, why should one team have it easier than another?
If the Rangers play the Astros more than the Yankees and still miss the playoffs...isn't that the Rangers' fault? If the Yankees come to Houston needing a sweep, and go 2-1 and miss the playoffs, is that the schedule's fault? (The likelihood of both of these scenarios is dependent on the Astros, which means...who knows). What's the "different kind of damage" Rosenthal is even talking about? I'm honestly asking (I've also been up since 4am, so maybe I'm missing something obvious.)
Why should one team have it easier than another? Because that's exactly how the owners drew it up. By creating two 15-team leagues, this is the schedule they knew would follow. 
So let's play the world's smallest violin for an unnamed AL East executive, who concludes Rosenthal's sad sad sad column with this gem:
If part of what you are selling as a sport is the determination of a true champion, an unbalanced schedule is emphatically not the way to do it.
Sorry, buddy. Your boss did it to you.

UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal told Astros County that the unbalanced schedule was not part of realignment. More on this later.