Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (7/17-20: at Bal)

Only eight of the 30 MLB teams are slated to play on Thursday -- and the Tigers are one of just two in the American League. It's an inequity that isn't setting well with manager Jim Leyland, nor is it, I would imagine, with the managers of the other seven teams.

Why the Tigers and Orioles are playing on Thursday, when all the other 12 AL teams are off, is beyond me.

A traditional All-Star break used to mean Monday thru Wednesday off, with games resuming on Thursday -- starting four-game weekend series, basically. I can see not having every single team play on Thursday, but just eight of 30? And just two of 14 in the AL? That seems like a scheduling quirk that could have been avoided.

Leyland has gone on record as being less than thrilled with that imbalance -- not that there's anything he can do about it, of course. Schedule making isn't easy, even with the use of computers and fancy software. But there still needs to be a human element, you'd think. If the Tigers needed to play four games in Baltimore, why couldn't they be Friday thru Monday instead? If closer to half of the teams in each league played on Thursday, then that's a split you can understand and live with. But when 73% of MLB teams can somehow get Thursday off, then that doesn't make any sense to me.

OK, so what's the big deal? Who cares? Well, what team couldn't use an extra day off right about now? Frankly, it's just a matter of equity. If it's not a big deal, then why do nearly three-quarters of the teams have Thursday off? The grass is always greener, I know, but the whole imbalance seems avoidable.

I say have most of the teams play on Thursday. A three-day break is ample. A better split would have been 22 on, 8 off -- not vice-versa.

As for the Tigers, I doubt many folks would have been happy with 47-47 at the break, if presented with that scenario back in March. But considering what happened in April and May, that record isn't so rotten. Seven games back (the size of the Tigers' deficit against the first-place White Sox) isn't an insurmountable hurdle to clear. The Tigers basically need to make up one game for every ten they play, on an average, from here on out to catch the White Sox. That's on average. You can, of course, make up three or four games in a week, then slip back another couple in two days. It's what makes a pennant race so pulsating.



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