Baseball has many secret sources of fury that usually stay hidden from view as part of the game's backroom politics.Schedule-making is one such caldron of potential rage, always bubbling on a back burner. Yesterday, it sizzled.
"Every time I look at our schedule, my blood starts to boil," said Hank Peters, Baltimore Oriole general manager.
"I may not know much about scheduling, but I know when I have been shafted. Our club has been raped.
"If somebody were deliberately trying to draw up a schedule to prevent us from drawing decent crowds, this would be it.
"From the point of view of either fair competition or attendance, it is completely wrong. The whole American League schedule is one big comedy of errors."
What has the Orioles so angry?
Probably the same things that will have rans in general up in arms as soon as they grasp the new AL state.
First, The Orioles hate the AL's new "balanced schedule." It is hard to imagine a friend of the game who would not agree.
From 1900 to 1960, teams played each other 22 times a season-"traditional rivalries" were the heart of the sport. With expansion, those head-to-head meetings dwindled from 22 to 18 and finally to 15 in 1977 and 1978.
Last June, in the midst of a full-scale schedule revolt by AL club owners, the league agreed to cut the number of meeting between teams in the same division to 13.
That's right, the Orioles play their big-gate friends from Boston and New York only 13 times this year.
As a bonus, the O's now get to play every West Division team 12 times a year, rather than 10.
That means two fewer games against such powers as New York, Boston, Milwaukee and Detroit, and two more against woebegone Oakland, Seattle and Chicago.
"Just the two lost home dates against the Red Sox and Yankees will cost us 50,000 admissions," said an Oriole official.
The total damage is liable to run well over 100,000 lost customers.
"Our traditional rivalries have been cut away from us," said Peters. "This schedule completely defeats the purpose of having divisions at all. Good Lord, we play more games agaist the West than we do on our own division (84 to 78). What sense does that make?"
Matters just get worse. Starting tonight, when the world champion New York Yankees arrive for a three-game series in Memorial Stadium, the O's play 13 consecutive games against New York and Milwaukee-probably the two clubs they theoretically would have to beat for the division crown.
Half of the key meetings against their main adversaries-assuming a weakened Boston-will be finished before April ends.
Then, from July 30 to Aug. 12, the charade is repeated as Baltimore plays the same two powers 13 more times in a row. Over the season's last seven weeks, Baltimore never sees New York or Milwaukee again.
Welcome to the era of pennant race by remote control.
Thanks to "balanced scheduling," the Yanks return to Baltimore for only three August days in the final 25 weeks of the season.
"Every team draws best from mid-June to Sept. 1 when school is out," said Peters. "Well, from June 11 to Aug. 6 we are on the road for 38 of 56 days. When we are at home, we play such great attractions as Oakland, Seattle, Cleveland and Toronto.
"But it gets worse," said Peters, starting to steam. "When we do get back, it's for 16 straight games. That's just too long. Fans can't afford to come to 16 in a row. Any home stand of over 10 days has diminishing returns the longer it goes. Everybody knows it.
"The screwball things in our schedule just don't stop. We play Minnesota seven days in a row in August. Who's going to come to the fifth, sixth and seventh consecutive Oriole-Twin games?
"Our fans look at our schedule and think we're idiots. They don't know we had if forced down our throats. We had no choice."
Perhaps it is justice that a huge number of the AL's best head-to-head matchups are being burned up in April when the weather is worst, the crowds smallest and the umpires' strike gives the whole show an amateurish atmosphere. Milwaukee, for instance, opens its season with 15 straight games against the powers-New York, Boston and Baltimore.
Such showcase games have no business being bunched up and lost in April, especially since those 13 head-to-head contests between contenders now are so sparse and precious to the true fan.
What demon has created this outrage/ His name is Bob Holbrook of Boston. A gentler soul could not be found.
For 15 years he has "put the schedules of both leagues on one great palette, then painted a total picture."
The last man in American to be replaced by a computer may be Holbrook. "I've had PhDs coming out my ears for 12 years," he said. "None of them can get a computer to do a workable schedule. The computer doesn't know that the Red Sox hate to play on Mother's Day and the Twins don't want to be at home during fishing season."
Amidst the avalanche of variables in old-fashioned trial-and-error schedule making, Holbrook has had increasing problems. The jump from 12 to 14 teams was the last straw.
"It's almost impossible to make any schedule now, let alone a good one," he said. "Who ever dreamed of two division, each of which have an odd number of teams. You know, it takes two teams to play a game."
By last June, Holbrook faced "a full scale owners' revolt.I never saw such a scene at our schedule meeting. Each was madder than the other. Finally, Bud Selig (Milwaukee owner) said, 'we just can't pay these player salaries on this schedule. We hace to have more revenue.'"
So there's your answer. Balanced scheduling, because it is a bonanza to the inferior West Division while only hurting a few of the East teams, is expected to generate $3 million more than last year's schedule for the entire league.
"My job," said Holbrook, "is not to ask, 'Who won?' but "How many people came?'"
Holbrook has been given an impossible job. A schedule that maximizes profits must necessarily discriminate against poor-drawing teams. The rich getting richer is built into the system. Naturally, Baltimore and Cleveland-the only teams to vote against the schedule-are the clubs screaming loudest. For the monent, balanced scheduling has the 10 votes necessary to stay in existence because the entire seven-team West loves it.
Even Holbrook has nightmares. "You know," he said sheepishly, "the Brewers have the best schedule in the league. They don't play a single game within their division in September. They might win by beating the hell out of Srattle the last month. That's just the way it worked out . . .
"Sometimes you just have to rob Peter to pay Paul."
Or should that be Peters?