Q&A with Katy Feeney, MLB's scheduling guru

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2010 - 8:54 AM

Katy Feeney is in charge of many of the particulars of the baseball schedule. The 2011 version -- released in preliminary form last week -- was her latest undertaking.

As Major League Baseball's senior vice president for club relations and scheduling, Katy Feeney is in charge of many of the particulars of the baseball schedule. The 2011 version -- released in preliminary form last week -- was her latest undertaking. She took time after the release to chat about the demands and challenges of putting together a schedule with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand:

Q How long does it take to put together a schedule?

A The 2011 schedule, we started working on that last November. We sent a questionnaire to clubs asking about preferences, stadium availability, a variety of items. Then we go through a review, and we have a consulting company [Sports Scheduling Group] and we feed all the information into a computer. But there's still a lot of work from there. The computer is not a human being. It can't necessarily give you the best travel pattern. You give it rules and preferences, but the computer doesn't have to get on that airplane at midnight and arrive at 4 in the morning.

Q I'm assuming that's when the fun begins.

A Then it's sent to the clubs for their review. Depending on what they say, we see whether we can make changes. It's very rare you can find an easy flip-flop. Everything will have a ripple effect. But we make some changes. We have a lot of rules. Nobody can play more than 20 consecutive days. Traveling from the Pacific time zone to the Eastern time zone, you need a day off. No more than 10 off days before the All-Star Break -- that's a new rule in the most recent basic agreement. ... And then we'll get that all done, and everybody will complain about the schedule.

Q It sounds like you field a lot of complaints.

A Well, I always like to say if everybody is unhappy, we've probably made a reasonable schedule. ... After we finalize times, then it's more or less final. Although there are constantly changes even when it's final.

Q The schedule released [last] week starts sooner and ends sooner than 2010. What were the considerations there?

A It's a combination of things. Some of it is how the calendar falls. It worked for us this particular year [2011] to have the postseason stay out of November.

Q What are some of the biggest problems you encounter that a casual fan might not consider?

A You try to balance it as much as possible. We also have two-team markets, and we try to minimize conflicts in those cities, where they are home on the same dates. ... Baseball teams are not supposed to give away dates in their stadium for other events before the schedule is done, but reality hits and somebody wants a concert there or there's a big city event.

Q Are teams usually reasonable in their requests?

A [Sighs and laughs.] I guess that depends on what you call reasonable. Some teams will ask for a whole bunch, thinking they will get some. Others will pinpoint exact things they really want. There are 30 different teams, and they have different personalities.

Q The Twins went in 2010 from being an indoor team to an outdoor team. Does that throw a wrench into everything?

A Everything has a ripple effect. Minnesota in early April is probably not warm.

Q It's beautiful!

A We've had people say well, why don't you play a warm-weather schedule, play in domes and warm weather the first part of the season. But the year we tried that, it rained in the West and when we came home to the East it was snowing. ... If someone can tell me which week in April there's going to be snow, I'd be happy to work around that. The weather is not yet something over which we have control.

Q But I assume you are working on that?

A We're working on it, yes. (Laughs.)

Q Is making the schedule any fun at all?

A Oh, it is. I mean, you're working for Major League Baseball. But there are days when I go home and wonder, "Why am I working for Major League Baseball?" (Laughs.)

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