Is an unbalanced schedule the right move for Atlantic League?

The Lancaster Barnstormers could end up looking like the Road Warriors to a lot of York Revolution fans.

Back when the Atlantic League had an uneven number of teams and needed an all-travel team to fill out the schedule, the Road Warriors seemingly showed up once a week. It might have just seemed that way because the games usually dragged, with the Road Warriors typically being overmatched by most every team in the league.

And with no home stadium, the Road Dogs always seemed to be in town.

This year will have a similar feel since York and Lancaster will meet a record 28 times.

Good grief, who needs to see that?

The War of the Roses will feel like the Hundred Years’ War.

There is something to be said for too much of a good thing.

We are two weeks into a 140-game schedule and York and Lancaster have already met seven times. Seven! In a typical year with a balanced schedule the two teams would meet 20 times. So this change adds another week of games between the two clubs.

No person should have to sit through that many Butch Hobson pitching changes unless they are a Barnstormers’ season-ticket holder.

All joking aside, York and Lancaster have a good rivalry. They played perhaps the league’s best playoff series during the last decade, needing five games and extra innings to decide a victor in 2011. But another eight games doesn’t add to a rivalry. It just waters it down. It’s no longer a special time when these two teams meet.

Never mind the sheer boredom fans might be experiencing in this series come August, the schedule also presents a problem in competitive edge.

Suppose Lancaster and York are the two best clubs in the league. They will have to face the best team in the league more than any other squad.

And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, what happens if one of those teams miss the playoffs by one game?

There is a real chance, if both teams are equally matched, the 28-game series could cause both teams to miss the playoffs.

Or switch it around, what if one of these teams ends up being the worst team in the league? Now all of a sudden, York or Lancaster could have a leg up on every other team for one of those four playoff spots. Think the rest of the league is going to like the fact one team could walk into the playoffs because it played a month’s worth of games against the worst product on the field?

Now an unbalanced schedule could be a good thing. I actually like the idea, if its broken down by division. The Long Island Ducks came into town in 2011 and all but eliminated York from the first half title in the penultimate series of the first half. That shouldn’t happen. The end of each half should be filled with games against divisional opponents. If playoff spots are determined by divisional leaders, then divisional foes should face off at the end of each half.

So in that sense, an unbalanced schedule works.

But that’s not what is going on this year. York plays each team a different amount of times. It plays division foes Lancaster (28 times), Southern Maryland (24) and Sugar Land (20). Yet it hooks up with Liberty-Division member Somerset 21 times.

“We’re going to get a lot of games between three teams,” Revolution manager Mark Mason said.

“I’m not going to say I dislike it, I will say I don’t understand it. I do understand, I think, that it’s about maybe budgets and local rivalries. Because there is only one team in Texas, I’m not really sure why we’re unbalanced now.”

Perhaps this is the first year for the unbalanced schedule, perhaps its just a test run. And all this will change when the league finds a second team in Texas. At least we can hope that’s what’s going to happen.

About Jim Seip

Jim Seip wore a cookie monster costume to help close out the Spectrum on Oct. 31, 2009.
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