And, frankly, that shouldn’t be that surprising since, as long as the unbalanced schedule is unbalaced along divisional lines, its impact on divisional races should be fairly minimal. After all, other than not being able to play themselves (and the discrepancies in interleague play that should probably be cleaned up), intra-divisional rivals play roughly the same slate of opponents over the 162 game season. Changing to a balanced schedule where teams in the same divisions still play roughly the same slate of opponents wouldn’t obviously do anything to change that dynamic at the margins, as you’d still expect the better team to win more games than the losing team. If there’s going to be any change in the distribution of wins, it should be teams in stronger divisions adding wins relative to teams in weaker divisions, which would do nothing to change the balance of winning within one division or another.
Moreover, Olney compares the Orioles plight with the schedule of the Rangers and Tigers, but since both of those teams won their respective divisions and got the automatic playoff bid that goes along with that, they have nothing to do with the Orioles or any other team in any other division, as none of those teams would have been eligible for the playoff berth the Rangers and Tigers received no matter how many games they won.
This isn’t to say I’m in favor of the unbalanced schedule on the merits or anything. Like most people, I find the notion of playing fewer games against the same four teams every season quite appealing, but I also recognize that that’s merely an aesthetic opinion, not one that necessarily extends towards any problems beyond the fact that I get really bored seeing the Yankees play 72 combined games against the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles in six months.
The unbalanced schedule isn’t killing the Orioles’ chances, anymore than its killing the Rays’ chances. After all, Tampa Bay is in a much more disadvantaged economic position than Baltimore is, as the Orioles have a reasonably strong market to play in, their own regional sports network to pump revenue into the team’s coffers, and a long and storied tradition of success as a franchise to create an identity among the fanbase. What they don’t have is any sense of how to build a good baseball team. They didn’t draft well for quite a long time before Andy MacPhail came along and insisted on signing Matt Wieters, they haven’t done a good job of developing their prospects into quality major leaguers since Mike Mussina broke into the big leagues and, of late, they’ve seen promising young pitchers fall apart at a downright unbelievable rate.
Giving them more games against the Rangers and Tigers and fewer against the Yankees and Big Bad Rays won’t help them one bit until they turn that around.