Astros: A Shortened Major League Baseball Season?

Jun 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; The Houston Astros celebrate the win against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Astros won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; The Houston Astros celebrate the win against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Astros won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

As the MLB considers shortening the season, we look at it through an Astros fans’ eyes.

The major league baseball season is the longest of the major sports, not only in the sheer number of games but the length of the season. For dozens of years, the season was 154 games long. In 1961, the season was lengthened to 162 games to accommodate expansion, and that has been the standard for 55 years.

The length of the season has grown as well. The first games have sometimes started at the end of March, and the final World Series games are often in early November. I can remember as a kid looking at the schedule to see the number of scheduled doubleheader that the Houston Astros would play in a given season. Teams rarely even consider a scheduled doubleheader anymore.

The discussion in play currently is to shorten the season back to 154 games. While eight games may not seem like that much, it would allow either for the World Series to be completed in October or there to be more off-days. It would also allow for at least one less road trip for each team.

There are pros and cons on each side, for players, owners, and fans . . .

For the players, the pros would include those things already mentioned – less stress on the body from fewer games and at least one more week of the off-season. The cons would include possibly a reduction in salary due to a shorter workload.

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For the owners, they would have three choices: 1) seek a percentage reduction in salaries through collective bargaining, 2) raise ticket prices to accommodate four fewer home games or 3) deal with the reduced revenue for a possibly improved product

For the fans, the only negative would be probably scheduling four fewer home games. Season ticket prices would have to be adjusted one way or the other.

Shaving eight games off of the schedule is a start, but I propose something more radical. The season is a grind on the players, no matter how you slice it up. Families feel the stress as moms are left to be mom and dad for extended stretches. Single dads have it even harder. I propose for consideration a schedule that more closely resembles the college schedule, and perhaps the Japanese major league schedule. Here’s the gist of it…

Each team would play a four-game series each week – Thursday-Sunday. The calendar would start mid-March and go through early October (oh yeah, I’m shaving two weeks off of spring training). Teams would play 30 weekends of 4 games each – a total of 120 games (I told you it was radical).

Teams would be afforded the luxury of a four-man rotation and an extra arm in the bullpen. There would be no travel except on Sunday night and Wednesday. Teams could have workouts/recovery days on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as needed.

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You say 120 games is not enough (from a fan and player perspective, I’d argue that with you, but the owners wouldn’t like it)? Ok, I have a couple of other revisions that would allow for more games.

If you played a doubleheader every Sunday, that’s 150 games for the season. Players don’t like doubleheaders, but there is the place for your fifth starter, and your ace could come back in relief if you need him. Plus, you are guaranteed three days to recover each week.

Another way to look at it would be to play Wednesday-Sunday each week, a single game each day. That takes away one of the off-days, but it gets the players on a regular schedule and allows for the five-man rotation, with the ace or #2 starter possibly giving you an inning later in the weekend if you have an extra inning game.

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The downside of 120 games is ticket prices would likely take a significant jump. Major League Baseball would probably try to take advantage of the idle Monday-Wednesday by trying to institute a “game of the week” on those off-days, but if a team didn’t have to do that every week, it could be doable. The season of 150 games would probably be more acceptable.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***