I agree with a lot of what this opinion piece has to say. For instance, I too want baseball back in my life. I’m not a super-fan or anything, but sports are sports, and right now baseball would be significantly better than nothing. I also don’t care how they split the money; just fucking get the deal struck and let’s get on with it! All this in-fighting can’t be good for the longevity of the game and its popularity in America; but, then again, as Americans it’s our right to live our lives like goldfish, forgetting even our recent past, and be distracted by the next shiny new thing to take our minds off of the drudgery of everyday existence.
But, I have no problem with them setting up a shortened MLB season. 114 games, 82 games, 50 games; it would seem to me, the fewer the better!
Everyone likes to point to the canceled World Series in 1994 as a major turning point in baseball’s popularity in America. They also like to point out how the steroids-fuelled home run races of the late 90’s helped revive it, but overall the consensus is the same: Major League Baseball never QUITE recovered. It’s no longer America’s National Pastime and it never will be again.
I would argue: that fading in popularity would’ve happened regardless. Baseball is long and boring and stodgy and slow. Its financial system is atrocious, often forcing simple-minded teams to be stuck with poor personnel choices long beyond the point of reason, forcing those teams to tank in order to free up enough money – and build up enough draft capital – to try to rebuild into contenders once again. Saying that you want to rebuild, of course, is easier said than done, because even if you make sound, logical decisions, they could blow up in your face in any number of unforeseen ways. It breeds resentment among fans – like Mariners fans – who have to wallow in mediocrity for decades, in both the underperforming players (getting paid WAY more than what they’re worth, based on past performance) and the franchises whose jerseys we root for.
Honestly, I think the only way to increase interest in the game IS to drastically reduce the number of games played per season!
The writer of that article states, “Baseball is a game appreciated for its daily, serial journey. The endurance is part of the joy.” I think that’s a flawed argument; I think for really hardcore baseball fans, that’s true. But, for the vast majority of casual fans, it renders most of the season completely meaningless. Games cease to mean as much in April, May, and to an extent even June, because there are SO MANY, what does it matter if you drop a close contest here or there? The good teams ultimately rise to the top, while the bad teams eventually reveal their true colors over the course of a 162-game season; it takes any suspense whatsoever out of the sport until maybe the final week or two in September, when your team might be in contention for a wild card spot or divisional championship. But, by then, the remaining games are littered with teams that are already out of it, and therefore not necessarily playing their best guys in an effort to put an eye toward the future.
You know why the NFL is so great and so much more popular? There are 16 regular season games. Every WEEK is do-or-die! If you gag away too many close contests in September, you’re FUCKED when it comes playoff time! You see teams every single season leap from among the worst in the league one year to among the best the next; you could play the same season across a million different simulations and get tons of dramatically different results! Whereas, if you played the same 162-game MLB season a million different times, there would be a lot of sameness; with too many teams knowing they’re already eliminated from contention by Memorial Day.
What would a 50-game MLB season look like under normal circumstances? That’s slightly over 8 games per month. You could play them all on Fridays & Saturdays or Saturdays & Sundays. There would be lots of built-in rest days for the players, which means there would be MUCH fewer injuries (especially to pitchers). You wouldn’t have to employ more than maybe 2-3 starters (meaning that the level of talent would be seriously increased). You’d be free to stock your bullpen full of specialists. You could have more substantial benches for pinch hitters late in games. You wouldn’t need to employ as many minor leaguers. You could PROBABLY substantially lower salaries.
And, most importantly, EVERY game would be do-or-die!
Imagine it! Like football, we’d have all week to sit around and obsess over what happened the previous weekend and what’s coming up! It would give the game a chance to BREATHE! Remember all those weird, wild finishes you’ve seen throughout the years, where your team does something amazing in extra innings or something? Those are the games you want to obsess over for DAYS, but they’re always immediately forgotten 12 hours later as the daily baseball grind beats the recent past out of our minds.
I mean, obviously, this will never happen, because owners are greedy, and there’s too much money to be made over a 162-game season. You wouldn’t see enough savings from personnel to counteract the loss of tickets and consessions and local TV deals. But, just imagine the gameday excitement if there were only two games per week! The stadia would be FILLED just about every game! The in-game atmosphere would be tremendous! Contrast that against your average Tuesday in May, when the weather is shitty, the crowd is maybe a fifth of capacity, and you can hear every fucking yokel’s insult as clear as a bell for most of the 3-hour timeframe. I mean, that’s hardly different than the proposed COVID-19 fan-less experience we’re talking about now!
Maybe a 50-game season is extreme. But, I’d love to see all MLB games relegated to Friday/Saturday/Sunday; three games per week for six months. That comes out to 81-game seasons, if every season was 27 weeks long. That ain’t bad! Cut out all the bullshit, improve the product on the field, and fan interest would SOAR.