Over the winter we heard the MLB Players' Association is pushing to reduce the season from 162 games to 154 games, giving players eight extra off-days during the season. The modern schedule (night game in one city, day game in another city the next day, etc.) and the inability to use amphetamines has created concerns about fatigue.
According to David Lennon of Newsday, the idea of reducing the schedule to 154 games has "gained momentum" of late, as MLB and the MLBPA negotiate the new collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires on December 1, and there's no indication a work stoppage is on the horizon, thankfully.
The biggest problem with reducing the schedule is the financial impact. Eight fewer games means four fewer home dates per team, which impacts the bottom line. Also, television contracts around the league call for a minimum number of games to be broadcast and things like that.
At the All-Star Game last week, commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that if the players want to play fewer games, they should be prepared to take a pay cut as well. Manfred works for the owners, of course. From Lennon:
"Can something be done? Yeah, things can be done," commissioner Rob Manfred said in speaking with the BBWAA before Tuesday's All-Star Game. "There are ways to produce more off days in the schedule. Some of those have very significant economic ramifications that -- if in fact we're going down those roads -- those economic ramifications are going to have to be shared by all of the relevant parties. You want to work less, usually you get paid less. But we are prepared to discuss the schedule issues and make proposals that are responsive to the ones that we've received from the MLBPA."
The MLBPA doesn't have much leverage here. Here's what union chief Tony Clark said when told about Manfred's comment about the players having to take a pay cut:
"I don't agree that there would need to be a discussion about a loss of salary or a rollback of salaries," Clark said. "Because if there is a lessening of the games . . . the value of every game goes up as well. I'm not talking about raising ticket prices. What I'm talking about is the idea that if I'm a fan coming to a ballpark, or I'm purchasing a season ticket, I know I'm going to see my guys as a result of x, y, z being done to make improvements to their overall health."
The MLBPA's argument boils down to the product on the field being better because the best players are getting more rest. That doesn't sound like the best bargaining chip to me.
The AL switched from a 154-game schedule to a 162-game schedule in 1961. The NL did the same in 1962. With 30 teams and six five-team divisions, a 154-game season could mean 18 games against the four division rivals, six games against the other 10 teams in the league, and 32 games worth of interleague play.
The financial ramifications of switching from a 162-game to a 154-game schedule may be too great to sort out before the current CBA expires on December 1. The seed has been planted though, and that's the main goal. The MLBPA has let the owners know this is something they intend to pursue seriously.
As a fan, going from 162 games to 154 games would stink, because everyone wants more baseball. That said, we're talking about eight fewer games spread across a 183-day season. We probably wouldn't even notice the difference.