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A’s may be in right, but probably won’t get protest upheld

Collision or obstruction? There is an excellent chance that the A’s and the Angels will play down to the final weekend of the season before deciding the American League West.

If that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to be umpire Greg Gibson, whose call against the A’s forced Oakland to play Thursday’s game under protest. If the protest isn’t upheld and the A’s finish one game behind, or even in a tie with, the Angels, Gibson will have had as much impact on the race as any player on either team.

The A’s see it as a potential win denied them, the Angels winning 4-3 in 10 innings. The A’s need all the wins they can get at this time of the season, and being denied one could be the difference between winning the division and advancing to a five-game division series or winning a wild card berth and having to win one game for the right to advance or be eliminated.

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Schedule inequities on display this week with A’s hosting Yankees in New York’s one trip West

There will never be a time when the three American League West teams located on the eastern rim of the Pacific Ocean – the A’s, the Mariners and the Angels – won’t have troubling schedules.

They are about 1,500 miles from the other two teams in their division, Texas and Houston, and further still from the rest of the American League venues.

The question we pose here today is why the schedule makers insist on making things worse than they already are.

The Yankees, who come to town for three games beginning Tuesday, are in Oakland as the middle stop in a three-city West Coast swing. They’ve been to Seattle, and next they head to Anaheim.

The Orioles have already had a three-city junket to the West Coast. The Red Sox, in July, and the Rays in late August and early September, will do likewise.

Such a schedule makes it easy for those teams, minimizing the amount of mileage each accrues and leaving them with just two cross country flights for the AL West portion of the schedule – one to the West Coast and one back to the East Coast. With a day off mid-trip and another after after, it’s as close to a piece of cake as schedule makers can devise.

How many of the West Coast teams have reciprocal deals? None. The A’s, the Angels and the Mariners each must take three separate trips to say they’ve visited those same four cities. Oakland, for example, had Tampa Bay and Boston on an April trip, but their trip to New York was coupled with stops in Cleveland and Seattle. The trip to Baltimore later in the year will also include a stop in Detroit.

The city breakdown for the Angels and the Mariners is a little different, but the basics are the same. The Angels may have the most ludicrous of trips to visit one of those four East Coast cities, heading to Seattle and Milwaukee before making it to Tampa Bay.

It’s subtle, but it’s East Coast bias at a substantial level. The three West Coast teams are always going to have to fly the most miles, but by this kind of discriminatory scheduling, the Major League Baseball makes it worse than it has to.

There was a time in the 1980s and 1990 when the A’s could generally count on a three-city Baltimore-Boston-New York trip, but as the number of teams have expanded, the number of divisions has increased to three and interleague play has become season-long, that seems to have gone.

It should return, because the West Coast teams have enough built-in scheduling issues as it is. The A’s, for example, have five different trips to the Eastern Time Zone. And with the addition of Houston to the AL West this year, there are a total of six stops in the state of Texas for each West Coast team.

The West Coasters would be getting a break if they could play the Rangers and the Astros as part of a combined trip, but that hasn’t been deemed important. The A’s had one Texas-Houston trip this season, but that’s it and the other four stops will be combined with trips to other cities.

The Angels have it even worse. They have no conjoined Texas-Houston series, so they have to fly to into and out of the State of Texas six different times. That’s a joke.

You can bet that Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t see the humor in it. It’s a good bet that he, A’s manager Bob Melvin and Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge would supplicate themselves at the altar of MLB in New York if they thought it would bring about any change.

There are always going to be schedule inequities with the bulk of Major League Baseball teams concentrated in the Eastern and Central time zones. But it’s time somebody in the scheduling department of the commissioner’s office did something to level the playing field a bit.