Thursday December 15th, 2011
Sam Evans: The MLB season right now is longer than it has ever been. With pitchers and catchers reporting February 19th this year, and the World Series ending in early November, it is outrageous to expect players to stay physically and mentally healthy for an entire season. Major League Baseball needs to look into how they can make the season more fan and player friendly. One solution to this issue is to shorten the season.
The Major League schedule is more demanding than any other league. Not every MLB player is like Roger Hornsby who once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. Stare out the window & wait for spring.” The players have hinted that they would like a little longer offseason. I don’t blame them, as Major League players go through a tremendous grind to complete a season.
It must be especially hard for the foreign players to have to be away from their respective homes for such a long time. Even if it means that the fans have to watch less baseball, the reality is that players deserve more time off. They are away from their families longer than anyone should be. In college, you only play roughly 60 games. In high school, the average team plays about 40 games. Overseas, the young players play about the same as an American high school. To have to make the jump from 40 games a year to up to 211, must be extremely difficult- to almost impossible.
However, shortening the season isn’t as easy of a task as it seems. Here is my multi-step proposal to fix the issue of the lengthy MLB season:
Players voluntary report to Spring Training: February 1st. This is for the Roger Hornsbys and Roy Halladays of the world. Having voluntary reports more than two weeks earlier than it is now would also provide injured players a trusted place to rehab. However, this timeline would also be optional for coaches, as they would also have the option to take time off if needed.
Spring Training: Starts February 20th. That date is about two weeks earlier than it was last year. Major League spring training would have teams playing only 20 games instead of 30. However, the games would be more spread out over the schedule, giving fans a chance to watch multiple teams every week. When I went to spring training in Arizona two years, I was disappointed that the players didn’t have enough time to just go enjoy themselves. Whether it’s in Arizona or Florida, the players should be able to have days off to rest their bodies and minds. Downtime is healthy, especially during the spring in preparing for the season.
Start of Regular Season: April 4th. This is the exact same date that the Cardinals and Marlins will face off on opening night this year. Players would get back to doing what they do best, playing baseball in the most competitive league in the world. Every year, the quality of players would get better. During the long offseason, players would have time to get faster, stronger, and better prepared for the following season.
All-Star Break: July 9th – July 18th. Here is where it gets really interesting. The current schedule allows players only about three days off in the middle of the season. With this schedule, players would be able to return to their families for a nice vacation. However, here is a twist that I want to propose as well: the trade deadline should moved up to July 20th. That way, the public would not lose interest in the game while the players are taking a break. The media would be filled with trade rumors, and once the break was over, the players could get back to playing baseball.
End of Regular Season: The season comes to a close on September 30th, which cuts off three games at the end.
Playoffs: The playoffs would start in October 2nd and end by October 26th at the latest. This would be following the same format as MLB currently uses with no more than one day needed for travel. Ideally, the World Series would end a week before Halloween. Baseball is a game that is supposed to be played under the sun, not in snow.
Spring Regular Season Total
Current Sched: 30 162 192
Proposed Sched: 20 153 173
I completely understand that the current schedule exists in its current format because MLB needs to generate revenues. Teams would have a hard time letting go of the extra games and the revenues they bring in, as the players could balk at any pay reductions based on a proportional reduction in games to salaries. However, I think a lesser number of games would boost interest in the game. The first bowl of ice cream tastes much better than the fifth. That is something to keep in mind in keeping the game fresh and exciting.
The schedule that I proposed today would hopefully give more time off for players, while not drastically decreasing the amount of revenue that the current schedule brings in. Major League Baseball’s current schedule is just too long and unaccommodating for the players. As much as fans and revenues are keys to the success of our national pastime, it is the players who define the game. Shortening the season would lead to better rested, conditioned and happy players- which in turn would lead to better baseball overall. If it improves the game of baseball, I am all for it.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter***
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