If the playoffs have time and again taught us anything, it’s this: the regular season means just about nothing. The team with the best record is rarely able to even make it to the World Series, let alone win it, so those April through September wins themselves have yet to prove anyone’s worth. What’s more, with the All-Star Game determining home-field advantage, the value of teams’ wins is actually reduced the more they win.
So what to do? How on earth can Major League Baseball restore order to the universe and make those games all mean something? Exactly one league in the world has figured this out, and it’s not baseball but rather the National Football League, what with their system of leveled schedules and forcing teams to justify last year’s won-loss record and whatnot.
Imagine if, for example, instead of awkward scheduling tics where the Sox play the Yankees ten times and A’s three, the Sox were forced to play the bulk of their 2009 season against teams that performed comparably in 2008. Or conversely, imagine the Phillies eschew the Nationals in favor of the Cubs, Dodgers and Brewers.
The catch is that under this system, the one-year wonder would either become all too common or rendered entirely impossible. We all remember what happened to those Bears who threatened to go 16-0 a few short seasons ago, and we’ve all seen how they’ve been effectively crushed under the weight of their own conference championship since. Now pretend this year’s fluke teams – most egregiously the Angels and Cubs – had to go head-to-head with this year’s actual winners in lieu of 19 games against the likes of the Pirates and Mariners.
Likewise, any team with both the resources and the available scouting could effectively become a juggernaut much easier and much more convincingly. Our own White Sox, for example, would be summarily punished for feasting on the Kansas City Royals while someone like the Twins would spend their seasons matching up again and again with the. . . um, A’s? Winners against winners, losers against losers, victory for the righteous and shallow graves for the impostors.
Then again, juggling 162 games’ worth of projected skill is a considerably more daunting task than slotting 16 weeks of large people running each other over. Perhaps all this league really needs are fewer impostor teams messing it up for everyone else.