When the Houston Astros were strong-armed out of the NL Central and into the AL West, MLB had not only made things a bit more fair for the National League (and a lot more fair for the teams in the NL Central), it also put itself in a bit of a pickle. The move gave the AL its 15th team, and left the NL with a similarly odd 15 teams. Query: in a sports where teams play multiple-game series throughout the year, how do you create a schedule that accommodates an uneven number of teams in each league?
Well, you’ve got to have interleague play throughout the year.
And that’s what we’ve now got, starting in 2013. Today, MLB revealed its master schedule for 2013. The Cubs open with the Pirates in Pittsburgh on April 1 (and then do the whole off-day-the-next-day thing), and the Reds and Angels open in the first interleague series of the season.
The Cubs’ first interleague series starts April 16 against the Rangers at Wrigley Field.
With even leagues, MLB was finally able to put together completely balanced schedules in terms of the types of games each team plays. That is to say, each team will play 76 games within its division, 66 against the rest of their league, and 20 interleague games. Some reports had the schedule not balancing out unless each team played upwards of 32 interleague games, but obviously that must have been some kind of rounding error. It isn’t quite the interleague bounty some had hoped for, but it’s a slight increase from 2012 (the Cubs played 15 interleague games this year). There will still be some lack of balance in terms of which intraleague teams are played (and the rivalry series), but it’s much closer than it’s been in recent years.
The season ends in late September this year, which will provide more time for tie-breakers and weather issues related to the new Wild Card round of the playoffs.
The particulars of the Cubs’ schedule will be coming shortly.