As you may have heard, new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he would consider shortening baseball’s regular season from 162 to 154 games. It’s not at the very top of his to-do list — whew! — but the seed has been planted and this change is very possible sometime in the near future.
“I don’t think length of season is a topic that can’t ever be discussed,” Manfred told Rovell. “I don’t think it would be impossible to go back to 154 [games].”
To baseball purists, a shorter MLB season would be an outrage. To the old-timers who have followed the game long enough, it wouldn’t be all that much of a disturbance. Both leagues played 154 game seasons as recently as 1960, before the American League extended the schedule to 162 in 1961. The National League followed suit a year later in ’62. This was of course during a time of expansion within the sport. In 1960 both leagues had just eight teams. In ’61 the AL expanded to 10 teams, necessitating the longer schedule. In ’62 the NL added a pair of teams and remained par for the course with 10 teams of its own. What I’m trying to say is, the last time MLB ran a 154 game schedule, the league had half as many teams as it does today.
Trimming eight games from the docket might seem like it would be hardly noticeable, but baseball fans are among the most passionate in sports, and that extra week off would be felt by most. Ironically, baseball has by far the longest schedule per-game schedule of any sport, but also has one of the lengthiest offseasons. Any baseball fan can agree that the fall and winter drag along at a snail’s pace as we wait for Spring Training to kick off each year. An extra week without baseball would just add insult to injury.
154 games would also give fans fewer opportunities to see Giancarlo Stanton do what he does. It would mean four fewer games at Marlins Park. 77 home games is such a weird number. It would also give Stanton and other players alike fewer opportunities to break modern-day individual records that were set in 162 game seasons.
Manfred has already implemented rules intended to speed up games. The average time of a game was three hours and two minutes in 2014. I guess the Commissioner is trying to make his league more like the NBA where teams breeze through games in a little over two hours? Are there really fans out there who want to see less baseball? NFL and college football games usually last at least three, three and a half hours. And that’s widely accepted by fans. Those leagues play far fewer games than baseball does, sure, but football is obviously a completely different animal. One of the allures of baseball is the human element, and how there is no shot clock or game clock bogging down the spectacle. The psychological battle between pitcher and batter, the pitcher stepping off the mound to psych the hitter out in the moments before a critical pitch, the batter stepping out of the box to take a deep breath and steal an extra practice swing — there’s just nothing else like it.
Baseball season has been 162 games long for over 50 years now. It’s worked just fine. Roger Goodell has tinkered with new rules and policies in recent years and has watered down the NFL to a point where it’s almost unrecognizable today. The same can’t happen to Major League Baseball, and our 162 game seasons need to be left the way they are.
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