Sports from the point view from the guy that holds the clipboard for the guy that holds the clipboard.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Baseball vs Mother Nature

Baseball you have a problem.  You have extended your season beyond it’s physical limits and Mother Nature will continue to ruin your plans unless you make some changes.  You need to chop a month off the schedule, but we all know that is not going to happen.  So can we agree that cutting 2 weeks from the schedule along with making some scheduling tweaks is possible?

Here’s the plan:
1)      Cut the regular season back to 154 games.  It’s a historic number and gives us a little over a week. 
2)      Schedule each team one double header a month in the months of May, June, July, and August.  This will give us the rest of that second week.
3)      Schedule only divisional games during the first 2 weeks of the season for “weather troubled teams”, those northern non-dome teams whose early season games are at risk on a yearly basis.
4)      Every day make sure there is one day game scheduled.  This gives you a greater chance of getting the game in if weather becomes a factor.  I'll admit up front that I do just want to see more day games.

That’s it.  Clean, simple, and not too controversial.  Lets go through and look at each point a little more in depth.
154 Games:  I know this went away before my father was born.  But something needs to be done.  Baseball really needs to be squeezed in during a 6 month period and we are playing it during seven months.  Things need to reigned in at both ends and what better way than to cut 8 games from the season.  This won’t cost any team that much money.  Baseball won’t have to sell the ridiculous idea of playing a seven game series at a neutral site.  And we can’t build domes in every city.  This change is less impactful than the wild card, interleague play, or the DH.  So records may not be broken as much, big deal.  With a shorter season we will see less stars out with injury.  Eight games may not seem like much,, and two week even less so, but it will have a impact.  Baseball is a marathon and cutting 1 mile from a marathon means more people finish, without drastically altering the endurance aspect of the race. 

Double headers:  Look, this is how things used to be done.  1 ticket, two games, for 4 games a season will bring some excitement back to the game.  Yes, I live in Boston and this means that it will be more difficult for me to get to see a game, because I am cutting 6 games worth of tickets off the block.  (Math: each team will host 2 double headers total, and each team will lose 4 home games as a result of the 154 game schedule.)  But the benefits are great.  Managers have gotten fat and lazy they need something more to worry about it.  Players have also gotten fat and lazy and they need to man up and play both ends of a double header.    

Divisional Games:  This one is easy.  Most divisions have enough of a spread between stadiums affected by cold weather and those not affected.   As a result we can schedule Boston to play Toronto at Fenway on April 15th and if it snows and the whole series needs to get moved it’s no problem.  We play the series in Toronto than move a later series from Toronto to Boston.  It’s more fair than this “neutral site” site nonsense, right Houston?  We also cannot just schedule the entire month of April in warm cities or in domes, it would load the schedule up at the end to favor the northern teams.  So we act in a manner that allows us the greatest flexibility and fairness.  That is why we keep the games in the division.

Day games.  Why does this matter?  Again it goes back to flexibility; a day game that needs to be played can be played as many as 8 hours after the scheduled first pitch.  Yes that is ridiculous, but compared to a suspended World Series game?  Compared to playing a World Series game entirely in the rain?  Compared to losing an off day during a pennant race to play a game halfway across the country?  Compared to making up a game after the season is over just to find out if we need a one game playoff?  No it is better to start at a game at 9pm that was scheduled to start at 1pm than it is to do any of those other things.

MLB needs to deal with this issue and there is no easy single solution to the problem.  By taking this four step approach we can avoid the fiascoes that we dealt with last season.  A blend of schedule tweaks and traditional solutions to a long standing problem will be the easiest to sell and the best thing to do for the game, the players, and the fans.

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