Report: Shortened MLB schedule gaining momentum

By Michael Dixon

Major League Baseball has used a 162-game schedule for more than 50 years. When it comes time to negotiate the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the MLB schedule might be changing.

“The idea of returning to a 154-game regular season has gained momentum recently,” per David Lennon of New York Newsday. “Exhausted players have complained about the rigors of the modern travel schedule, which can force teams to jump as many as three time zones on consecutive days.”

This seems like a great idea. Unfortunately, it does present one rather large problem — money.

The first financial issue is revenue. If eight games are taken off of the schedule, everyone loses eight games of revenue. Fortunately, some of those losses can be minimized, at worst.

The Wild Card games could become a best-of-three (or even best-of-five) series. The Divisional Series could be expanded to best-of-seven. Granted, the short nature of those games/series add to their excitement. Still, in a bottom line business, excitement often loses out. How many people in the NBA regret making the first-round series best-of-seven affairs back in 2003?

Added revenue generated at the gate and from television would go a long way in cutting the losses of eight regular season games.

As far as money goes, the bigger issue is the salaries players earn.

Every MLB player under contract signed a deal for a 162-game season. For a shortened schedule to work, one of two things likely needs to happen.

One, players everywhere would need to accept a pay cut of roughly five percent. Given how much money these guys make, that may not seem like a lot. Still, the MLBPA is historically a strong union. Strong unions generally don’t take too kindly to having their members take five percent pay cuts.

Two, the owners would need to bite the bullet. With that, they’d continue to pay players money for 162 game seasons, even with the shortened season. It’s hard to get into the heads of 30 billionaires. Still, the idea that they’d have no problem paying the same costs for less services doesn’t exactly fly.

Eventually, the two sides may find a compromise. Heck, one of the two sides may completely cave in. It just seems unlikely that any of that would happen without a tremendous fight. In collective bargaining terms, “tremendous fight” frequently means lost games. Nobody who was around during 1994’s cancelled World Series wants any part of that.

There is one other issue. One of the best perks of shortening the schedule is that the season will either start later, end earlier or both. In some cities, the MLB season starts when winter is still stubbornly hanging around. In those same cities, the postseason ends when winter is beginning to peak its head out.

With expanded postseason, a later start/earlier finish won’t happen. The season would still start in late-March/early-April. The World Series would still end in late-October, or even early-November. If that happens, the league is really just asking for weather delays. Those are never good.

This idea sounds good. But for a 154-game schedule to truly work, some big obstacles need to be worked through.