Wooden's World of Baseball

Monday, November 13, 2006

The 2007 CanAm League Schedule

It's that time of year when you look over the next season's schedule and start to plot out your next summer of baseball. For the affiliated teams, this isn't that exciting; generally speaking, the teams are the same from year to year. My new "hometown team," for example had the 2007 schedule released less than two weeks after the 2006 season ended.

For the indys, it's much more interesting adventure, as teams come and go and travelling squads are shuffled in and out, often at the last minute. The CanAm League, nee the Northeast League, a.k.a. the Northern League East from 1999 to 2002, released its 2007 slate last week.

And there's an interesting twist this time around.

Since I began following the CanAm in 2003, the eight teams would play two series against each other, once per half. Some teams would play each other 14 times, others 13, and some 12, but it was roughly an "even" schedule, not counting the luck of the draw when the Aces (2004) took over Allentown's schedule and the Grays (2005) took over Bangor's slate.

The Grays have been revived, and in an obvious effort to reduce travel costs, the schedule has been drawn up and it's decidedly unbalanced. For example, my old hometown team, the North Shore Spirit, are now playing intrastate rivals Worcester and Brockton 14 and 13 games respectively but the hated Quebec Capitales just six times. In fact, the Spirit travel just once to Quebec, Sussex and Atlantic City.

It doesn't take too much imagination to see how this could very well benefit certain teams from a competition standpoint. New Jersey and Atlantic City play the Grays the most (each 14 times) while Worcester (6) and Sussex play them the least (9). Nashua and New Haven each play the Grays 10 times, but they get the bulk of their games (six for the Cutters, seven for the Pride) in August and September, when travelling teams should theoretically be worn down after three-plus months on the road.

To play devil's advocate, perhaps a schedule optimized for the least amount of travel will make the 2007 Grays competitive throughout the whole season. The 2005 edition played .500 ball in the first half only to fade away in the 2nd half while the 2004 Aces were more competitive in the 2nd half than in the first (relatively speaking of course). The longer lead time should also make for a team that is built, assuming the league assigns/hires a player procurement guy to build a team or the Grays are given the best picks at the tryout camp.

And all of this presumes that the Surf will be able to make the transition from the Atlantic League; what if they are unable to have any of their 2006 players come back? The prevailing wisdom is that that will be the case (especially when there's a team to replace them in the Atlantic League), whereas the Pride were able to convince a few to stay and "play down" rather than retire or join the Pennsylvania Road Warriors. What if the 2007 Surf are anything like the 2006 Skyhawks?

These are the thoughts that help shorten the winter, if only just a little bit.


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