The major league schedule is a grueling 162 game marathon that tends to drag on too long late in the summer when many teams are out of the playoff race. It shouldn’t take that many games to determine which teams are worthy of advancing to the postseason.
Gone are the day when iron men like Cal Ripken Jr. took the field every day. Teams rest star players to keep them fresh for the stretch run. It’s smart management from the team’s perspective but fans who paid their hard-earned money to see Mookie Betts may be disappointed if Alex Cora decides to sit the reigning MVP for rest purposes that day.
Baseball has always been a game obsessed with numbers. Those lofty home run, RBI, and win totals will be harder to rack up in fewer games, which may result in some push-back on a reduced schedule. It shouldn’t. MLB implemented the 162 game schedule in 1961, giving today’s players a perceived advantage over those who played in an era with the old 154 game schedule. If you’re worried about the integrity of baseball’s sacred record books, rule changes have already tarnished them.
Returning to a 154 game schedule wouldn’t make much of a difference to player stats. Only 37 major league players appeared in more than 154 games last year and a mere seven went the distance for a full 162.
The biggest difference would be to their wallets. Players still get paid even when they sit out for rest or injury. Reducing the schedule would mean a decrease in revenue from ticket sales and TV contracts, meaning there’s less profit to spread around. Fewer games would be better for baseball but it’s hard to see both sides getting behind an idea that would cost them money.