Carroll County Times

Commentary: Schedule does Orioles no favors

The Orioles would be a shoo-in for the postseason if only they played high school rules and could stop after seven innings. They've lost 17 times (through Friday) when leading or tied after eight frames and are 16-27 in one-run game. The bullpen, so good a year ago, hasn't gotten it done.
There's another way they'd be a playoff lock, though. They simply needed to relocate from Baltimore to the heartland or the West Coast prior to the season.
That's thanks to Major League Baseball's unbalanced - and unfair - schedule.
This system means the Orioles play the most consistently good franchises in baseball three times as often as many of the teams they're competing against for a wild-card berth who just happen to be lucky that geography kept them out of the AL East.
So, 19 times a year, the Orioles play ...
-The Rays, who have a winning percentage north of .560 since the start of 2008;
-The free-spending Red Sox, who have more World Series titles (two) than losing seasons (one) in the past 15 years;
-The ultra-free-spending Yankees, who have been good since, well, since they traded for a guy named Ruth during the Woodrow Wilson administration;
-And the Blue Jays, who are in last place but who are talented enough to have been the chic preseason pick to win the division by every baseball pundit worth his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, the playoff contenders from other AL divisions - the division-leading Athletics and Tigers and wild-card contending Rangers, Indians and Royals -face those four only six times each and get to see the league's doormats at triple the rate the Orioles do. The Indians and Royals get 19 cracks at the Twins and White Sox while Oakland Texas face the Mariners and woeful Astros 19 times each.
There was a time when the unbalanced schedule would've made perfect sense.
The only teams that made the MLB postseason from 1969-93 were the division winners. So it would've been logical to play teams within one's own division as often as possible. Ironically, MLB had a balanced schedule for most of that time. So the Orioles played West Coast teams, who they weren't competing against for playoff berths, as often as they played the Yanks and Sawx.
The wild card was instituted after that (and expanded in 2012) meaning the Orioles now are vying for playoff berths against every other team in the AL. But while the final playoff spot could come down to either the Orioles, Rangers or Indians, the Orioles have had a far more difficult road to the postseason.
Baltimore plays 76 games against AL East competition, nearly half of its schedule. The Orioles went into Saturday with a winning record against NL teams (11-9) and AL Central teams (17-16) and having dominated the AL West (21-12). But their 29-32 mark against the AL East was looking like a postseason dealbreaker - especially considering they have the toughest schedule in the league over the final two weeks of the season.
While Baltimore is playing Boston and New York (again and again) Cleveland will be facing a steady diet of the White Sox, Twins and Astros, taking on teams with an average current record of 61-85.
That's good for them, considering they are 12-21 against AL East teams. If the Indians are still playing in October, they should vote the White Sox a playoff share. They're 13-2 against the Chisox this season. But they don't owe their position to one bad team as much as Texas does.
After a nice run as the AL's best team from 2010-12, the Rangers are nothing special this year. They're probably going to make the playoffs for one reason and one reason only: They get to play the worst team in baseball 18 times
The Rangers are 13-17 against the AL East, 12-17 against the AL Central and .500 against the National League. But they're an unbelievable 46-21 against the AL West. That mark has largely been built because the Rangers are 14-2 against their in-state rivals the Houston Astros, slogging through their third consecutive 100-loss season.
The Orioles have done fine against bad teams - fashioning a mark of 31-23 against sub-.500 teams - they just haven't played those teams enough. The Rangers have 46 wins against losing teams; the Indians 44.
The discrepancy is bad all season but it gets worse in September, then the good teams are grinding to win every game and the bad teams are looking at not-yet-ready prospects.
It's ridiculous for teams competing for the same postseason berths to be playing such different schedules. But don't blame the commissioner's office. This is the schedule Peter Angelos and the rest of the owners wanted. They (correctly) deduced that more games against top rivals means higher attendance figures and television ratings.
So they decided an equitable distribution of games was less important than a more plentiful distribution of revenue to their coffers.
While Orioles fans might spend the entire offseason frustrated at Jim Johnson & Co. if the Orioles miss the postseason and inferior teams from the Central or West make it, that frustration might actually be better directed at Angelos and his brethren, who sold out their teams' best chance to win for more butts in the seats and more eyeballs on flatscreen TVs.