I love baseball. I love taking in as many games as I can, as many statistics I can analyze and spewing as much commentary as I can about the game. From afar it seems that every single contest of the 162-game season has a diverse impact on my fandom for the sport; a jenga piece to the collective tower of attention I like to put forth towards the sport of Major League Baseball. What is better than having an opportunity to see your favorite sport and favorite team, almost every day, from the end of February to the start — or even better, the end — of October?
Perhaps an opportunity to see your team put forth a healthier lineup day in and day out? Maybe your favorite flamethrower getting an extra day or two to rest his fastball-firing cannon and prep to bring the triple digit heat at a consistent and healthy rate?
What about your team’s star slugger, who gets tired from sending baseballs to nearby zip codes from Sunday through Saturday, getting a bit more rest to his spring-loaded stance and hefty boomstick? What about a tense September matchup that doesn’t consist of taking the field against divisional rivals?
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All of these ideas I put forth are staged by the topic of a shorter MLB regular season sechedule unlike the 162-game (excluding spring training and postseason) marathon it is now. According to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, first-year MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is not against the idea of playing a shorter regular season. In his interview with Rovell, Manfred suggested a possibility of taking the number of games from the current 162 number back to the 154 game number that was last enforced back in 1961. Manfred also noted that lessening the seasons length to a drastic number such as 110 games is off the table, citing the impact it would have on the current record books.
Shortening the regular season by eight games may not seem like a fruitful move from the outside, but could lead to a beneficial impact. A strategic timing of days shortened by regular season schedule can play into a crucial factor I highlighted before; health.
For example, remove those eight games from the schedule to allow more days off for players to rest and recover amidst the long-haul. In between cross-country series like a scenario having the Mariners play a Thursday night home game in Seattle then having a game the next day across the nation in Toronto reduces the stress of travel on player performances.
The 21-straight games played streaks each team inevitably faces during the season will be no more. Starters can get an extra day off than the five-day norm and the bullpen as a result is more rested and poised for the crucial moments high-tensity situations call for. The wear-and-tear of the fundamental pitching, fielding, and hitting motions can be alleviated some with more time to recuperate through three and four game series. The onslaught of elbow and shoulder injuries to pitchers this year and last may be avoided with a smaller schedule.
Competition is another value that can be improved by shortening the season. As the season progresses, select teams catch fire and divisional match-ups prove to be the most crucial part of a dramatic postseason run. Non-divisional match-ups become far too one-sided with one team often rolling over another that suffers from the dog days of summer.
White Cleat Beat
Reducing the number of games, specifically divisional match-ups, will grant a larger number of important non-division games to be played. The late season match-up of teams like the Dodgers and Mets will have higher Wild Card implications for a team like New York. The Dodgers, in turn, are a top team that will have to maintain their reign if they do not want to suffer a fate of dropping to the dreaded wild card game. Stadium attendance should increase in every stadium with a lower amount of home games to watch your favorite team, potentially growing team revenue in the process.
Asking for a smaller number of games does boggle sabermetrics that journalists love to gather. Home runs and hit streaks will take on an added pressure, the push for an ERA title will take much more precaution and MVP voting will have more variation.
It is a slippery slope that has to be perfected in order for agreement to be translated from the teams to the fans. In time, however, I hope the MLB community can come to terms on a shorter regular season. The rate of competition will make a slight jump, and player recovery will be improved in a way that can protect and prevent future injury.
A fifty-six year old concept will seem foreign to many MLB fans and will struggle to gain momentum, but Rob Manfred has mentioned, albeit a slight mention, that a seasonal reduction of games could happen in the future. I think it is a step in the right direction to preserving the name of Major League Baseball.