Saturday, May 1, 2010

36 Questions: Schedules

How do they make the schedules?

At the beginning of the year, there were some complaints about the schedule. It was felt that the Sox shouldn’t open against the Yankees. I agreed. As a Sox fan, I’d just as soon have the excitement of Opening Day be separate from the excitement of a Yankees series. I also would like the Sox to have a few games under their belt before the big series start. Ideally, I’d like to see them open against the Nationals, and then move on to other teams. Naturally, that’s not going to happen. But, the conversation got me thinking. How in the world do they manage to put a major league baseball schedule?

At first glance, I can see it being nearly impossible to set the games up for a team. The Sox need to play teams from the AL East 18 times each. You’d like to try and space those out a bit. You can’t schedule a team for too many games in a row without an off day. You need 81 games at home, and 81 games on the road. Those parameters on their own don’t make the job impossible. I can see myself with a blank calendar. I can picture placing series in until the numbers add up. Start with Baltimore, then Tampa. Then Kansas City, and so on. I can even imagine it would be easy to change it up from year to year. I’ll make the schedule for AL East Team A, and one for Team B, C, D, and E. I can change up which team is which every year, and that makes each years schedule different. That wouldn’t be awful.

But, of course, the schedule makers don’t do that. Why? Because they can’t. My schedule has left out a few criteria. The Red Sox need a homestand on Patriots day. I don’t know if other teams have similar requirements, but I bet there are a couple. That’s not too difficult to incorporate. But, I’ve left out the biggest requirement. Road trips. You can’t have a team go from LA to Minnesota, to Seattle, to Tampa. It would be too much. So, you set it up so that the Red Sox go from Seattle to Oakland to LA. At the very least, you need an off day in between. The Sox this year, for instance, have a game in San Francisco on a Sunday, and Tampa Bay on Tuesday. At least there’s a break. So, that all needs to be figured in. Not too bad either. Except, that means that Seattle and Oakland and LA need to have homestands on those days. It also means that you can’t mix up teams using the “Team A” process, because one time Team A could be Texas, and Team B Seattle. So, every year, to make things different, you need a whole new schedule.

Even with all those restrictions, I could probably put together the Red Sox schedule. Heck, I have an example to copy taped next to my computer. But, what about the next team? Just for fun, take this year’s Red Sox schedule. Without looking it up, use a blank calendar to try to create a schedule that would work for the Orioles. You’ll need to have them in Boston when the Red Sox are scheduled to be home, and in Baltimore when the Sox are scheduled to play at Camden Yards. From there, fill in the other games keeping road trips reasonable. It’s getting trickier. But, I bet it would be possible. OK. Now try Tampa. They need to be in Boston when the Sox play them at Fenway, Baltimore when the Orioles play them Camden Yards, and at the Trop when either the Red Sox or Orioles are scheduled to be in Tampa. Wowsers. It’s already getting a little crazy. I haven’t even added in Toronto or NY yet. I haven’t made you set aside time for the interleague play. If I kept going, adding teams to create schedules for, how long before you made a mess of things? When you get to Texas, could they be in Toronto when you already wanted them to be, and then in Arlington when you wanted them to be? What a mess. I have no idea how they do it year in and year out. I don’t doubt that there are computers involved, but even that’s a little crazy. Do they set a maximum number of miles between road stops? Maximum number of time zones? Maybe I need to cut the schedule makers a little slack.

How on earth do they put together a new schedule every year?

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