Baseball has the longest regular season out of all four professional sports leagues in the country with 162 games. That’s nearly double what the NBA and NHL regular seasons have at 82 games. Granted, baseball season is finished roughly seven months after Opening Day, unlike the NBA and NHL where it takes eight months to finish the year, but the NBA and NHL give more time off between games, unlike MLB.
Baseball is arguably the toughest sport physically and mentally for athletes. If a player's timing is just a bit off, it can be the difference between a 0 for 5 day at the plate and a 5 for 5 day. The players are also more likely to suffer injuries in a season that lasts 183 days, including off days, which can hurt teams' chances of winning more times than not. There are plenty of reasons baseball season needs to be shortened, but we will look at the bigger components behind why it needs to go down.
Players wear out towards the end
No matter how much training a player does in the offseason, there will come a time when they won’t perform to the best of their abilities. Every player does what they can to prepare for the 162-game season during the offseason but no matter what they do, they’re bound to have a stretch of a month more or less towards the end of the year where they aren’t the best they can be.
It also hurts the previous season’s playoff teams, especially the clubs that reach the World Series. From the time the World Series ends to the first day of Spring Training, players only have about three and a half months to recover from the grind of the year and get ready for the next season. With the few amounts of off days during the season (30 at most to be exact), there is no way for these players to be at their full potential come the first Spring Training game in late February.
If we don’t want to see players wear out the league needs to shorten the season by at least two weeks and at most a month, as the famous quote from Hall of Famer Yogi Berra goes, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half physical”.
The injury bug
It’s been unbelievable seeing these players go down due to injuries to start the season. Sure the 10-day DL might play a role in players landing on the DL for minor ailments, but the 2018 season started earlier than any other season in baseball history, beginning on March 29. Players only had six weeks to prepare for the season once spring camps opened and most clubs only had eight days to train before their first game.
Commissioner Rob Manfred wanted to start the season earlier because the league incorporated more off days into the season, making the season stretch across 187 days instead of the usual 183. Having those extra days may benefit as the year goes on, but is it worth only giving players six weeks to prepare for the year while in years past they had almost eight? If players don’t receive the proper training to get ready for the year, it can throw their rhythm off at the plate, on the mound and in physical and mental health.
Part of Spring Training is giving guys who are expected to be on the Opening Day roster regular rest so they don’t overwork themselves and later get injured. With only six weeks to prepare, it’s a little difficult to give those players the needed rest when a manager needs those guys to get enough innings and plate appearances to be ready for Opening Day in a six-week time frame.
As of April 17, there had been 25 games postponed due to poor weather. 25 games in two-and-a-half weeks is an absurd figure. Playing baseball in April always leaves the possibility of inclement weather postponing games and as summer comes along its expected rain will wreak havoc. The difference between the times of year, though, is it’s expected in the summer for a downpour to happen. And because it’s summer, it’s warmer which means games can easily be played during the day if it were needed. That can’t happen in April when the weather can still turn wintry at the drop of a dime.
What’s even more ridiculous about these postponements is six out of the 16 games that were supposed to be played on April 15 were postponed due to poor weather. Another crazy story from last weekend was the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox played one game out of the four-game weekend series at Target Field because of bad weather. The Twins played their first game in almost a week last night in Puerto Rico against the Indians and promptly lost 6-1. The Indians had three off days themselves before the series opener last night, with only one of those off days being scheduled and the Toronto Blue Jays finally played yesterday after three straight games got postponed.
This past weekend sparked the debate about whether ballparks should be required to have a roof to prevent delays and postponements like this. If it didn’t cost millions of dollars to add a roof, it’d be a great idea but here’s an easier solution; start the season later!
Amid all these epidemics, it would be better for Commissioner Manfred to shorten the season and start the year in the middle of April. It’s better to give guys the time they need to recover from the previous season and have everyone be healthy than to start the year a week earlier just so more off days can be incorporated and lose games to weather and guys to injuries.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is advocating for a shorter season, saying in an ESPN article that “playing in the cold sucks," and “As fans, you’re going to a baseball game in April, and it’s raining, snowing, and [with] freezing rain. Is it really that much fun?”
Whether you agree or disagree with him, Rizzo is certainly on to something and his comments warrant further discussion amongst the higher-ups.
Should MLB's season be shorter? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!