Amid ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on a potential start of the 2020 regular season, the league put together an intriguing proposal in their efforts to entice both sides of the aisle.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the league’s latest proposal includes a shorter regular season with a full prorated share of players’ salaries. In the idea, however, that shortened season would “run somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 regular-season games,” per Passan.
The plan, which differs from the league’s initial proposal of an 82-game regular season, would reportedly bring baseball back into the fray in July and likely keep the postseason start time at its normal point in the calendar.
But, the whole idea runs counter to the MLBPA’s proposal from the prior weekend, where players called for a 114-game regular season that would start June 30 and end on October 31.
According to Passan, “multiple players told ESPN they would not abide a shorter schedule, with one saying, ‘We want to play more games and they want to play less. We want more baseball.'”
Any sports fan will usually find themselves on the side of more games than less, with a general desire for more content serving as the basis behind numerous streaming platforms, binge-able television shows, and the rushes to put out new content when opportunities present themselves. Don’t believe that last part? Just look at ESPN’s expedited production of “The Last Dance” that pushed its release up from June to April.
From a league standpoint as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it all seems reasonable. MLB is trying to be careful during the first wave of the disease, and is fearful of a potential second wave which would likely hit in the fall, therefore impacting MLB postseason play, if not eliminating it altogether.
Revenue loss has already become a major factor due to games not being played, combined with the likely lack of fans in attendance when players head back onto the diamond. So, cancellation of the postseason would add another wrinkle into that complicated situation.
Away from the COVID-19 specifics, however, the 50-game regular season may be a blessing in disguise, especially if you’re a fan of the “less is more” approach.
For starters, each game would take on a whole new meaning, with every pitch or managerial decision having added importance as it relates to the season as a whole. The push to the postseason would become that much more fierce and could pique the interest of fans on the fence who find that the 162-game season is too long.
Plus, with less time in between the start of the regular season and the start of the postseason, in-game moments may carry more weight throughout the year. For example, a Yankees pitcher drilling an Astros batter in July could create added drama for a potential postseason matchup in September, rather than getting lost in the shuffle if it happened in April.
Another issue in baseball’s recent history has been the lack of visibility for the sport’s best players, with Angels outfielder Mike Trout serving as the perfect case study. A New York Times article from October of 2019 showed how just one percent of the United States airs at least a quarter of Trout’s games, in comparison to 100% for an NFL star like Tom Brady or 98% for an NBA star like LeBron James.
At the same time, the article references YouGov’s ratings of active sports personalities showed that only 43 percent of Americans had heard of the multi-time American League MVP, compared to 91 percent for James and 88 percent for Brady.
A shortened season, combined with a lack of sports due to COVID-19 postponements, could allow for the league to air more games nationally, helping teams build up current and future stars in the process.
In the long run, a shortened season could be just the jolt of energy that MLB needs to kickstart younger fans and create more of a conversation around baseball. It would allow for the league to get back on its usual track come April of 2021, while giving fans something new and exciting for a single season during an unprecedented year.
While it might not be the financial solution players have been asking for, it could be an answer for the fans who have decided to tune out of MLB games altogether over the last few years, and could end up contributing to the long-term rejuvenation of the league.