Why cram more baseball games into a sawed-off season? You know the rea$on
An abbreviated schedule makes more sense. One game a day per team. But the more games played, the more money owners and players will make.
If Major League Baseball had watched me typing with frozen fingers or listened to me talking through chattering teeth at various Opening Days over the years, we wouldn’t be bemoaning the predicted loss of two months of the season due to the coronavirus right now.
We’d be warming our extremities over the comforting thought that the beginning of the season, which already had been moved to May 1 under my plan, would only be delayed a month or so by the pandemic. Even though baseball is being pitched as a salve in these dark times, we in cold-weather cities know, deep down, that playing games in snow and frigid temperatures is about as natural as a penguin applying sunscreen.
But MLB has never taken to my idea of a later start to the season and an earlier start to the postseason, which would put an end to World Series games in November. Almost everyone involved — owners, general managers, players and agents — has wanted as many games as possible with as many chances for making money as possible. I would bet there’s a decent percentage of Cubs and White Sox fans who would vote, with mittens on their hands, to start the season later on an annual basis. They don’t have a vote, of course.
We’re seeing the same instincts at work from owners and players as they try to figure out a way to stuff as many games as possible into the schedule once the COVID-19 scare has passed. There is no real reason other than money for teams to play two or three doubleheaders a week, as has been suggested. The idea of seven-inning games, another floated suggestion, seems sacrilegious. If owners and players want more work and bigger paychecks for beer vendors, ushers and grounds-crew workers at ballparks, I’m all for it. It’s just hard to believe that’s what this is about.
Why not simply play a shortened season? A game a day, like normal? You, the wise fan and observer of life, know exactly why not: a loss of dollars. Players’ contracts will be prorated when the 2020 season does start. The more games they play, the more money they’ll make. For owners, more games will mean more butts in more seats and, presumably, more TV money. It’s why players and management want to get as close to a full 162-game schedule as possible.
MLB likes to view the national pastime as a balm when the country is hurting, and maybe it is a balm. But does week after week of multiple doubleheaders serve as an industrial-strength soother? I don’t think so. If the let’s-play-two plan goes ahead, it will be an interesting study in how much condensed baseball Americans are willing to consume. One game a day is already too ponderous for a lot of people.
After the 232-day baseball strike ended in 1995, the season began on April 25, cutting that year’s schedule to 144 games. It would have been easy to play doubleheaders to make up for the lost games, but it didn’t happen. Few people complained, and the world didn’t end. Same with the 1981 stoppage, though the split-season playoff format was clunky.
We’re used to a 162-game schedule, and if there’s anything humans like, it’s routine. But if you’re fretting about the loss of games, just know the NBA and NHL manage to keep our interest with measly 82-game schedules.
If baseball is such a grueling sport, as its proponents insist it is, it’s hard to see how players can possibly keep up the pace in a shortened season filled with doubleheaders. When I suggested in a column several years ago that the game, with such a limited amount of running, wasn’t that strenuous, purists hurled virtual bean balls at me — virtual only because the hurlers didn’t know where I lived.
A crammed schedule might be worth it just for that experiment alone. If baseball is so taxing, the number of injuries should go up, right? I’m skeptical.
Agent-to-the-stars Scott Boras has proposed a 162-game schedule that would push the playoffs into December, with postseason games played in warm-city ballparks and domed stadiums.
“We have it all mapped out,” Boras told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s workable. We’ve done climate studies, and in Southern California, the average temperature in December is 67 degrees, which is better than late March and early April in most cities. We have 11 stadiums we could play postseason games in.”
Under Boras’ plan, the season would begin June 1, and the World Series would end Dec. 26. The question that won’t go away for all of this is “Why?” Why squeeze what was already too long of a season into a small box?
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball,” James Earl Jones’ character says to Kevin Costner’s in “Field of Dreams.”
Well, two, Ray. Baseball and money.