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.


Bonds’ future

Interesting news coming out of Tampa, where it appears the Rays are considering signing Barry Bonds. Gotta say, I didn’t see this one coming, and it’s worth wondering how serious Bonds would be about lacing up his shoes for this group.

The one thing we would know for sure if this deal comes to fruition is that Bonds cares far more about collecting his 3,000th hit than he is in pursuing his first World Series ring. The Rays are no longer the dregs of the American League East, but short of a miracle, they aren’t about to win this division, either.

Buster Olney, an ESPN baseball analyst who is as respected as anyone in baseball, thinks a Bonds addition would be a good move, and lists four reasons why he feels that way. Here would be my two main arguments against Olney’s reasoning.

1. Bonds won’t play for chump change — the figure I keep hearing is that he won’t settle for anything less than $10 million — and the Rays aren’t rich. Moreover, I don’t think he’d be as much of a gate attraction as people think, especially in Tampa. Much of the clinentele for the Rays is the retired crowd, and it seems the older generation is more inclinced to take a stand against Bonds’ indictment for perjury by not buying tickets.

2. Yes, Tampa Bay’s young and developing hitters could learn patience from Bonds, but they would also learn how to thumb their noses at any authority. Simply put, Bonds is a clubhouse cancer (hate to use that word, but it fits) on teams that aren’t in contention, so it’s not hard to see him having a negative impact on Tampa’s young players.

The fact that the Rays are even a consideration indicates that Bonds is getting itchy, and that is surprising. Believe me, come July some team will decide it needs just one more bat to get to the promised land, and then the offers will come. I would argue that Bonds will have a better opportunity to land in a playoff-type situation if he continues to wait. Obviously, we’re about to find out whether he’s as patient off the field as he is on it.