Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA Director Tony Clark each recently said it would be discussed in negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement, which will expire in December 2016.
A cut back to 154 games might seem feasible or even logical. However, I would not venture to call it probable until an owner puts his or her name behind the initiative.
The concept of a 154-game schedule is as much a players issue as it is an economic issue.
There aren’t too many owners who would jump to give up eight games — more importantly, four home games — worth of ticket sales or concessions money. Not to mention eight games worth of advertising revenue in the park, on television or over the radio airwaves. Also, convincing TV and radio networks to pay the same price for fewer games could be a challenge.
Ideally, owners could make up losses at the gate by increasing ticket prices, as tickets could theoretically be at a premium with fewer games on the schedule. But how many fans would actually be willing to pay more money at the gates?
This also has a longer reach, as this could affect everyone from stadium employees to neighborhood establishments — which matters now more than ever, especially considering there are numerous parks that receive public funding.
It is possible that baseball could expand the postseason and recover lost funds in that manner. Would a three-game Wild Card series work better for fans, teams and players instead of the pressure cooker that comes with a one-game play-in? Possibly. Would a seven-game LDS cut out some of the randomness that occurs in the best-of-five series?
The NBA playoffs used to have a best-of-five first round until 2003 before moving to a best-of-seven. According to The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective’s research from 2010, this resulted in an uptick of higher seeds winning the first-round series. This could be of interest to the league as it suggests that better teams move on, which could provide more compelling series in later rounds.
As for the players, would they be willing to cut 4.9 percent from their season’s pay for a few extra days off? How would that affect player contract negotiations moving forward? And would certain players re-think their stance on additional days off thanks to a schedule cut as they near particular milestones that could kick-in contract bonuses or even lead to something more?
These are just a handful of questions that deserve real answers between now and the next time the CBA gets ratified.
It is obvious there is more to moving to a 154-game schedule than chopping off eight games.