There needs to be less baseball.
Before I continue, it must be noted that baseball is one of my favorite sports, and the pace of the game is a huge factor as to why. The pace is part of the charm of the sport: moments of breath-holding stillness marked by moments of stadium-rocking excitement. Even the mystery of not knowing whether the game will end in two hours or five hours is exciting to me. However, the long season – 162 games, to be exact – has slowly taken its toll on players and fans alike.
While the proposition of the March-to-September season (not including October’s postseason) is not new, the 2018 season’s record-low attendance has brought this issue to the forefront again. The first month of this season has seen a 10 percent decrease in attendance across Major League Baseball teams as a whole.
After toggling between 154 games and 140 games per season for a few years, the League established our 162-game season in 1962, and this format has remained unchanged to this day. While executives have proposed the re-implementation of the 154-game season, a reduction of only eight games per season would not solve the greater issue, as that really only amounts to two weeks of playtime.
Chicago Cubs superstar and charismatic crowd favorite Anthony Rizzo made news this week when he spoke out about the issue of the season’s length, stating that he’s entirely in favor of cutting the season down. Rizzo referenced the weather as a huge factor in needing a shorter season: as the East Coast battles a wickedly cold and snowy spring, fans must commit to sitting in frigid weather for an indeterminate number of hours in order to watch players who are being forced to play ball in conditions that aren’t fit for outdoor recess, let alone a Major League Baseball game. Indeed, a number of games have been cancelled due to the weather this spring, and not only from stadiums that are exposed to the elements. Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, has a retractable roof in order to avoid situations such as these. However, even a roof could not save them when their April 16 home game against the Kansas City Royals had to be postponed due to a chunk of ice from the neighboring CN Tower falling through the roof of the stadium.
Beginning the season in May, as has been proposed by Rizzo, would help to avoid games being affected by the second coming of winter that tends to happen in the Northeast and would boost ticket sales with summer approaching. Summer games draw a wide crowd of families and students on summer break and often see the highest numbers in attendance in the regular season.
Additionally, shortening the season would help to lessen the barrage of injuries that baseball teams see, as the stress that the players have to put on their bodies in order to perform multiple times a week at full-throttle would be significantly decreased.
It has been noted that Rizzo – who earns a not-inconsiderable amount of money as winner of multiple MVP awards and has a whack of charisma to boot – would not see too much of a loss in his paycheck if the season were to be shortened, and thusly his opinion could be seen as moot. However, baseball is not just a paycheck to him – as a person who lives and breathes the sport, his stance has a huge amount of merit.
Baseball is a game that is basted in tradition – and this tradition is a huge draw for a lot of fans. Small changes in rules in order to speed up the game, such as the implementation of intentional walks, have historically caused an uproar among fans who want the game to remain unchanged. However, change is part of the sports landscape as a whole, and both players and fans could have an even more enjoyable experience through the season – if they weren’t forced to go through 162 days of it. The League has made many positive changes, including mandatory drug testing and adding two Wild Card teams to the playoff deck. Both of these changes have made the game more inclusive and fair.
Just don’t get me started about the tediousness of the instant replay.