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Schedule-makers think expansion

The National League already has begun looking at potential schedules for 1993 with the various combinations of expansion entries. Regardless of which two candidates are chosen, the league wants to continue its policy of teams playing more games against its division foes and fewer against the other division.

It's called an "unbalanced schedule." St. Louis, for example, plays 90 games against other NL East teams and 72 against NL West teams. Breaking it down further, the Cardinals play 18 games against each NL East team (nine home, nine away) and 12 games against each NL West team (six home, six away).

The American League, conversely, plays a more balanced schedule _ 84 games outside the division (12 games against each of seven teams) and 78 games within the division (13 games with each of the six other teams).

Teams in the NL make three visits to divisional rivals, two visits to teams in the other division. AL teams play two visits apiece.

"We are looking at various forms of scheduling," said Katy Feeney, the NL vice president of media and public affairs. "There are no easy answers, and with 14 teams there will be fewer easy answers. We do want to try and keep it unbalanced. We haven't made any final determinations and won't until things are decided."

She wouldn't say if any of the experimental schedules include franchise shifts _ say moving Chicago or St. Louis to the West or Atlanta to the East. Nor would she say if the schedules include all combinations of the expansion candidates _ Tampa Bay plus South Florida or Denver or Buffalo, N.Y., or Washington, D.C., or Orlando; Denver plus Tampa Bay or South Florida or Henry and Holly Stephenson a Staten Island, N.Y., couple, make up the major-league schedules under contracts with each league. They declined to discuss the potential advantages or disadvantages of two teams in Florida vs. one here and one elsewhere, but Henry Stephenson did explain the complexities of coming up with a schedule:

"Start with a 26-week season, minus the all-star break," he said. "The easy way to look at this is not the number of games but the number of series.

"The National League has 54 series. Each team plays three road and three home series against the five other teams in its division (30 series) and two road and two home series against the six teams in the other division (24 series). That just about fits into the 26 weeks. We have three weeks in which teams have to play three series in a week. Otherwise, it's the normal weekday-weekend series.

"The American League plays 52 series in the 26 weeks plus the all-star break. That fits, too, with just one "squeeze' week where there's three series instead of two.

"If the National League, with 14 teams, still wants to play an unbalanced three-and-two schedule, that's going to mean 64 series. For half the season, they'll be playing little two-game series. It can be done, but that's a lot of traveling," Stephenson said.

"If they want a three-and-one schedule (three series within the division, one series outside), that will mean about 50 series. That would fit real neatly. In fact, the season night be shorter.

"But it means you'll see some teams only once in your city and once in theirs. And with an odd number of teams, that means, for example, the Mets might open the season in Los Angeles and never go back again, and the Reds might not visit Chicago until the last week of the season."