By Ryan Mayer CBS Local Sports
Saying that the MLB season is too long, is the same as saying the Pro Bowl is stupid. It’s a widely held belief and opinion that, in the end, it doesn’t mean much and won’t change anything.
That’s why this week’s reports that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has heard “a lot of chatter” about going back to a 154 game season has generally been met with a collective shrug.
It’s easy to say that the league should shorten the season, but there’s nothing to suggest that it is anything more than “chatter.” The one quote that seems to suggest just that isn’t exactly definitive from the commish. “I think in the 20-something years I’ve worked in the game, there’s more conversation about it than there has been in a long time.”
That came directly following, however, the biggest obstacle that the sport has to making a logical decision: Money. “I think 154 is a topic that is complicated. It has big competitive and economic ramifications,” said Manfred to MLB.com’s Richard Justice. He went on to say that the schedule of 162 games in 184 days is grueling and it without a doubt is. The biggest obstacles in going back to the 154 game schedules are those pesky economic ramifications.
As you no doubt have gathered by reading these columns throughout the season so far, I’m a proponent of evolving the game of baseball and continuing to have discussions about what may be best for the sport as it grows into the future. So, I’m in favor of a shortened season, in fact I’d go shorter than 154 but, 154 is fine with me as well. I’m not the only baseball mind that agrees.
The problem is, as I alluded to earlier, and as the commissioner so eloquently stated; the economic ramifications in the short term to the game would cause many owners to blanche at the idea. Keith Olbermann, another media member who is an avid fan and follower of baseball, covered what the impact of shortening the season could be on the team’s wallets nicely on his show.[youtube:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeQyHf9h1X0&feature=youtu.be”%5D
The league isn’t hurting for money but certainly a 5% drop in revenue would cause the chain reaction that Olbermann illuminated. Now, the MLB has done the best job of any of the sports in making their product accessible on any platform whether through local TV contracts or through the MLB.tv system. The mobile platform alone made $620 million in the last reported year I could find back in 2012. That’s all to say that maybe the owners could agree to shorten the season while still remaining profitable.
The issue? You’re then asking multi-millionaire owners to ignore the ability to make more money. That’s not very likely.
Arguments to shorten the season are easy to make. Players would have more rest days, the season would end earlier leading to fewer cold weather games at the end of the schedule, etc. Arguments to get owners to give up money? Much more difficult. As the great prophet Puff Daddy once said “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree or disagree? Email him.