The first month of the 2018 season has been notable mostly for the high number of postponements, and we’re barely halfway through April. That sense of early fatigue probably informs this recent comment from Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Here’s what he recently said during an appearances on Chicago’s ESPN 1000:
“I think we play too much baseball. Yes, guys are going to take pay cuts. But are we playing this game for the money or do we love this game? I know it’s both, but in the long run it will make everything better.”
Since 1962, each league has played a 162-game schedule. Prior to that, it was 154 games for many decades. So the 162-game schedule is a modern phenomenon. Throw in the expanded playoffs and spring training, and you’ve got eight months of baseball for teams that reach the World Series. While this spring’s frigid conditions look like an aberration, late March and the early weeks of April rarely provide optimal baseball conditions. That’s probably at the heart of Rizzo’s complaints.
Obviously, players who, unlikely Rizzo, have not yet landed that life-changing payday may be loath to give back salary in exchange for a shorter schedule. As well, media contracts constitute a huge share of MLB’s revenues, and those stakeholders almost certainly aren’t going to be open to broadcasting fewer games unless it means they get some of their money back. MLB, in turn, isn’t going to want to cede any revenues.
“I appreciate the thought, but it’s not going to work,” former Marlins president and CBS Sports analyst David Samson said in reaction to Rizzo’s comments on CBS Sports HQ. “Just like owners aren’t going to take fewer home games. We tried in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement to maybe go to 154 games, and we couldn’t find enough teams who were willing to lose four home games only.”
There’s possibly a discussion to be had about shortening the regular season in exchange for adding more playoff teams, but that’s not going to sit well with traditionalists and perhaps the players themselves. In other words, don’t expect Rizzo’s wishes to be granted any time soon.