With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire in December and negotiations for a new CBA underway, officials from Major League Baseball and the players’ union are discussing the length of the regular-season schedule, reports David Lennon of Newsday. Specifically, the idea of streamlining from 162 to 154 games is picking up steam, per Lennon, as it would be less taxing on the players than the current format. The American League previously switched from a 154-game schedule to 162 in 1961, while the National League followed suit in 1962.
Today’s teams have just 21 days off during the 183-day regular season, which Lennon notes has led to complaints from the players because of the grueling travel schedules they face. One reason there are calls for a shorter schedule relate to the league’s stricter performance-enhancing drug testing, according to Lennon. PEDs are tempting to use in part because they help players get through a rigorous schedule, but with tests becoming harder to beat, drugs perhaps aren’t the enticing option they were in the past.
Regardless of the players’ issues with the current setup, cutting the schedule could be unrealistic because of the negative financial consequences likely to accompany it. Teams are unsurprisingly reluctant to sign off on losing revenue from attendance and television ratings. Players would also be in danger of making less money, too, as commissioner Rob Manfred laid out earlier this week.
“There are ways to produce more off days in the schedule. Some of those have very significant economic ramifications that — if in fact we’re going down those roads — those economic ramifications are going to have to be shared by all of the relevant parties,” said Manfred. “You want to work less, usually you get paid less. But we are prepared to discuss the schedule issues and make proposals that are responsive to the ones that we’ve received from the MLBPA.”
The players’ best chance to ensure a lighter schedule and continue to rake in the same salaries would be to convince the league that the quality of performance will rise if they garner more rest, writes Lennon. Indeed, that factors into MLBPA executive director Tony Clark’s argument.
“I don’t agree that there would need to be a discussion about a loss of salary or a rollback of salaries,” commented Clark. “Because if there is a lessening of the games . . . the value of every game goes up as well. I’m not talking about raising ticket prices. What I’m talking about is the idea that if I’m a fan coming to a ballpark, or I’m purchasing a season ticket, I know I’m going to see my guys as a result of x, y, z being done to make improvements to their overall health.”
If the league and the union are ultimately unable to agree to an eight-game reduction, Lennon offers the possibility of a two- or four-game compromise. With no CBA in place yet for next season, a resolution should come soon.