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How to Shorten the MLB Schedule

How to condense the MLB regular season schedule, increase the playoffs, but still finish play in October.

I am rooting for the 2016 World Series to end Sunday night in Chicago.

No, this is not about being against the Cubs or for the Cleveland Indians. I am vehemently opposed to Major League Baseball being played in the month of November.

baseball-snow-usa-200For that reason, as soon as the World Series schedule came out, I was pulling for the Series to conclude in four or five games.

It seems to me that seven months of constant play (April through October) should be long enough to decide a champion.

With the addition of the Wild Card, followed by a second Wild Card, fan interest has been increased during the latter months of the very long season. However, it also extends the post-season schedule. In fact, I would be in favor of a seven-game Division Series in which the additional two home games would be granted to the Division champion that won the most often over the prior six months.

One thing I like about the 2016 World Series is that no Wild Cards are participating. I believe the path to the top for second-place (and sometimes third-place) finishers has been made far too easy.

You may be asking yourself, what is this guy talking about? He opens with pushing for a shorter schedule, but wants to add two playoff games!

Hear me out, please.

Many people in favor of a shorter season want to see MLB take what appears to them to be the easy path, by returning to the old 154-game regular-season schedule. The problem is that much has changed in the last 50 years. Specifically, huge television contracts and team revenues are based on 81 home dates.

I have yet to see a 154-game proposal address where the four lost home games-worth of revenues per team would come from, which has to be a major reason why the idea has yet to gain traction.

Here is a far more realistic approach with fewer thorns than dropping the regular season schedule from 162 to 154.

Condense the current schedule ever so slightly.

Over June, July and August, when more families are available to attend, schedule a total of three Saturday home split double-headers for each team. That would average out to one home and one road twin-bill per club in each of the three summer months.

By making them split games (one afternoon and one evening), teams could sell tickets for each contest individually as well as vend 14 innings worth of beer.  Television rights holders would still be able to charge for a full schedule worth of advertising, etc. Over the season, teams would end up with a few more weekend games, when attendance is traditionally highest.

The choice of Saturday would be crucial for the fans, as no one wants more Sunday night games – other than ESPN. Make it possible for families who need to get home for the upcoming work week by enabling them to potentially see four games in three weekend days.

Sure, this complicates the schedule by having three four-game home series per club, and teams would have to play six double-headers over an average of 13 summer Saturdays. Since each team already has almost 20 intradivision games per opponent, make these double-headers against natural rivals, meaning more desirable games on the weekends. There would be no travel implications as these shifted games would land in the middle of Friday-Saturday-Sunday series.

Yes, the Players’ Association could complain, but MLB rules already allow the addition of a 26th player for all double-headers so there would be help for the poor, tired players. I will not continue by delving into the past, when travel was far less luxurious, yet double-headers were the norm. Realistically, player approval of this proposal could be its biggest inhibitor, though it should not be.

Yes, Saturday day games in Texas in the summer would be hot. Deal with it. But if it is a show-stopper, then schedule some or all of your home twin-bills earlier or later, instead. For example, back into Memorial Day weekend in May and/or extend through Labor Day weekend in September. Same offer for any teams that might be against three home double-headers over the three summer months.

Sure, there would be challenges if one or more of these Saturday double-headers is rained out, but that would be a relatively rare occurrence and could be accommodated if necessary. Reschedules are easier against division rivals simply because the teams play more often. When all is said and done, isn’t the tradeoff of playing more games against top opponents on nice summer weekends worth the small weather risk?

By implementing this proposal, Major League Baseball could achieve the same effect of shaving a week off the regular season without the associated loss of revenue. MLB and the teams do not lose and the fans win.

Further, even a slightly-expanded post-season could be scheduled to complete during October, with associated revenue increase – and a by-product being the end of November baseball.

It is not perfect, but no proposal would be. This approach is the most practical I can devise.

If you have an opinion, sound off below.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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One Response to “How to Shorten the MLB Schedule”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Seems like a useful and practical idea. Maintains revenue while condensing the season.

    Hard to imagine why anyone would object.

    Speed up games, speed up the season.

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