Would A Shorter Baseball Season Work?

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    This is very long, be sure you have the time to read it.

    As baseball can’t seem to get things worked out, it’s likely going to mean a forced 48-50 game schedule for players in 2020. Most fans will just give up and stop caring. Some will just be happy to watch baseball, but a lot of us will be waiting and seeing how both the players and the owners react to being forced into this scenario. The one possible bright spot is the casual fans, those who don’t seem to watch or go to most games due to the time and effort of following 162 games takes. Many of these fans are happy to read game recaps and get their information from sports radio, newspaper breakdowns and fansites. (“Hello Geeks & Gamers”)

    Again, as all of this has gone on, it hit me on what the possibilities would be like if baseball had a shorter season. Most casual fans have complained that the 162 game season is much too long and they simply cannot follow every single game. Even more dedicated fans find themselves struggling to stay appraised of the teams and transactions on a daily basis and will skip days and weekends when possible, happy more to follow a series rather than every single game. It’s pretty much the purists who really find themselves going to the most games in person, watching on TV or listening intently on the radio for the play-by-plays, even having their own books of scorecards to follow along with and reference back to after the seasons are done.

    I would say we are comprised mostly of “dedicated” fans with a few “purists” and a few “casual” fans mixed in. Therefore, we should be able to get a good mixed reaction to the possibilities of shorter seasons in the MLB. I will note that I have not done ANY formal research and that I’m just thinking of these as I go along, so if you have facts that are different than my opinion, you’re welcome to share them in the comments and I may amend the article. If you have different opinions than mine, definitely feel free to leave those as well for discussion.

    So, we’ll start with the shortest season I think most fans would be WILLING to accept on a regular basis.

    82 Games

    Why would this work: 82 games allows for indefinite expansion of the MLB. The MLB expansion would bring teams not previously available in areas that don’t have the revenue of a major market.

    With a very short schedule, players can be used differently, which would allow the highest commodity players (starting pitchers) to be more available to all teams.

    Most teams would comprise of a 3-man rotation with call-ups possibly filling 4-man rotations.

    As 82 games is what the NBA and NHL have, casual fans are used to being able to follow this type of season. Contracts would be something like a cross between the NBA and NFL where you have “Franchise” contracts for some players and then 4-5 year contracts for others, likely capping contracts at shorter periods to allow a limited “free agency” between contracts.

    Players would have longer careers as their bodies only go through half the wear-and-tear and have more days off between games.

    Games would be able to be called off quicker due to weather and rescheduled more easily due to the much more sparse schedule.

    Travel would be MUCH more geographical and would completely negate Interleague play. This would set up a LOT of new rivalries and rearrange the current NL/AL splits and perhaps allow the play styles between the due to truly differentiate if they chose to do so, which would make the World Series more interesting.

    The contraction of the minor leagues would not happen and a possible expansion of the minors may be in order to make up for the new MLB teams.

    Why this would not work: It would likely mean a salary cap on players as revenue across the teams would be much lower. Players would get paid a LOT less than now, possibly making more per game, they would take home less per season.

    Revenue for owners would drop significantly, at least at first. Due to fewer games being played, that also means fewer opportunities for people to attend. However, with people having fewer opportunities to attend, more may attend each game, but that would remain to be seen. Ticket prices would go up if demands for tickets go up.

    If nothing is done about blackout restrictions, they may go into overdrive as more teams are added and it would actually be HARDER to watch games.

    Stats people would NEVER be happy as the randomness of single games and constantly facing players who are well-rested would keep stats bouncing like crazy and never balance like that of 162 games. (Imagine the asterisks of post-2020 if this were implement next year).

    If time-frames regarding suspensions and injuries and promotions/demotions weren’t changed, players would miss an incredible amount of games.

    Games would likely be done in series of 2-games and a long series would be 3-games.

    Take Away: I believe 82 games is the absolute MINIMUM 90% of fans would be willing to accept as meaningful. Baseball is considered by many outside fans as kind of a “lazy” sport where players are just hanging out in the field or on the bench for 75% of the game, not really moving around, hence why they can play 162 games. Any less than that and I think they’d lose not just the hardcore, but the dedicated and most of the casual fans as well. While I think the positives slightly outweigh the negatives, I think the salary cap possibility and definitely the lower pay would prevent players from accepting it. As for fans, they’d get more casual fans, but the dedicated and hardcore fans would feel cheated. As each game series would be AT MOST 3 games long and would mostly be sets of 2 games, you often feel a “luck of the draw” and never feel quite satisfied as there would be lots of split series. The playoff system would essentially be like the NBA and NHL where half of the MLB makes it and nobody would really watch the first two rounds.

    84-120 games: I won’t discuss these scenarios as anything under 122 will basically fall between the case for 82 and 122 games. You COULD make an argument for 100-102 games, but really they’d be exactly in the middle of the 82-game pros/cons and the 122-game pros/cons. I will say the same with all “between suggested schedule” situations. They’re just too similar to discuss.

    122 games

    Why would this work: 122 games is probably the least amount of games that dedicated fans would FEEL like the season meant something. While the more hardcore would probably less likely to accept it, they’d begrudgingly do so and the more casual fans would have a much easier time to follow than the current system.

    Game series would likely go unchanged from the 162-game season, meaning 3-game series would be the norm, expansion of MLB could still go on, just not as large as an 82-game season would allow (probably in the 36-team range so 18 per league and 6 per division) and revenue would be vastly improved from the 82-game season as well.

    There likely would be no salary cap and the minor leagues would remain, again probably realigning to fit the new teams. The divisions would be more geographical and travel schedules would probably be better than current system.

    Again, larger playing pool as teams would probably have 4-man rotations and have tons of time off within a year.

    Playoffs would be expanded to at least 12 or 14 teams.

    Why this would not work: Players would still likely take a fairly large pay cut as they’re playing 42 games less, though they would have more incentives on the back ends by making playoffs, that is not guaranteed money.

    Blackouts again would probably run amok without changes to the system.

    Injury, suspensions and promotion/demotion times would likely have to change.

    Player contracts would remain to be seen as players would still be able to have longer careers, the current “luxury tax” system would likely be scrapped for a harder system that may force a lot of transactions throughout the year and off-season.

    Expanded teams up to 36 with this schedule could mean seeing a lot of bad players and watching even more teams intentionally tanking every year.

    Take away: As I said in the beginning of this section, I think 122 games is where people would start to feel like watching the game was worthwhile. At just about 75% of the current season, imagine if baseball ended in mid-August and that’s about where this puts things. By that time, teams are fairly well established, where they end up (unless they have hot or cold streaks) makes sense and stats are pretty well set and meaningful. I don’t think players would be for this, but I could see many casual and dedicated fans going full on for this and hardcore fans eventually finding themselves watching their favorite teams again.

    140 games

    Why this would work: A 140-game season would be the threshold that largely remains the same as the 162-game season.

    With 22 fewer games, players would be more well-rested again.

    Player salaries likely wouldn’t take too much of a hit; games would be easier to make up due to weather and the MLB could EASILY do their current planned expansion of 32 games with 4 divisions (possibly 8 regional divisions at 4 teams a piece), while keeping interleague play.

    The playoffs would again expand, though it remains to be seen if they’d do 3 wildcard spots having the top wildcard get a first-round bye while the bottom 2 do a 3-game series or if they’d go the route they had with the 8-team playoffs and just have everyone be equal.

    Once again, 4-man rotations would likely be the norm and player pools would be better and the minors would probably transfer over to compensate for the new teams with possibly only a few teams being contracted if it happens at all.

    Why this would not work: More teams to follow at a similar game rate as current means the casual fans likely find themselves out of caring again. While the possibility of having a team directly in newer fans’ regions may ignite some fandoms, trying to figure out when and why to care over 140-games is often too much for people to handle. The expanded playoffs may mean the difference between being a division winner and being a wildcard team are meaningless. This was the problem with 8 teams in the post-season as the Yankees and Red Sox always got in and never faced each other for elimination unless they both got to the AL Championship.

    Being a Division champ should be more meaningful than being the 2nd best in the division. So it would depend on how the playoff system were worked out. Still, many people wouldn’t care about the playoffs until the 2nd or 3rd rounds.

    Take Aways: I could easily see a 140-game season at some point. For players, not much would change, for owners, the revenue gained from playoffs would more than offset the 22 games loss as a playoff series takes in 2-5 times the amount of revenue as a regular season series and they’re rarely never sold out. It would likely lengthen the average player’s career by a full 1-2 years with the extra time off each year and make transactions meaningful during the season and during the off-season.

    150 games

    Why would this work: It’s exactly the same as 162-game season but with 12 fewer games to allow for expanded post-season.

    Why would this not work: It’s exactly the same as 162-games season but with 12 fewer games.

    Take away: The ONLY reason I see 150-152 games being a thing is to allow for expanded post-season. There is no real meaningful benefit to this schedule other than that. Maybe there’s 1-2 extra days off during the season, but otherwise the season simply ends earlier to allow for the current system to make the Wild Card games be either a 3-game or 5-game series. If they expand to 32 teams, this would almost be a MUST, but as I pointed out in the previous portion, they’d be better off removing the extra 10 games.

    So what do you think? Is there a season you’d like to see? Should they leave it alone?

    82-games I can’t stand the lengthy season. Be like the NBA/NHL!

    122-games I don’t start watching until NBA/NHL playoffs are over anyway

    140-games This is my comfort zone of change. I can get behind this.

    150-games Just give me more playoff baseball!

    162-games I came for a full season, I want my full season!

    • This topic was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by tazjam.
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