For most of MLB history the season was 154 games; in 1961 the American League extended the season t0 162 games and the National League followed in 1962, with both moves prompted by expansion. (Yes, it was an odd situation; in 1961, the season began on April 11 and ended Oct. 1, even though the National League played fewer games.) Reverting to a 154-game schedule would allow for a later opening and earlier end date, which would also mean an earlier playoff schedule and World Series. But new commish Manfred, already making an impact by showing a willingness to shake things up, says it’s not out of the question that MLB owners consider a shorter season. From ESPN.com:
“I don’t think length of season is a topic that can’t ever be discussed,” Manfred told ESPN.com. “I don’t think it would be impossible to go back to 154 [games].”
Manfred said discussion of season length is not at the top of his mind, adding that insiders he talks to don’t think having a season of 162 games is something that needs to be dealt with anytime soon. Manfred said concerns over the pace of the game are taking the priority. Last week, MLB implemented new rules for the upcoming season that seek to reduce the average time of a game, which clocked in at 3 hours, 2 minutes in 2014….
“We already have some of our record books which reflect a 154-game season and obviously some of it reflects a 162-game season,” Manfred said. “So there’s some natural flexibility there. But if anyone suggests to go to something like 110 games, then there’s a real problem. That will throw all our numbers out of whack.”
There are plenty of moving parts to be addressed if the season is shortened. First, owners would need to buy into the plan, but we’re guessing there would be some support for losing those early April and late September games. Players would need to come on board. And, most importantly, MLB’s many broadcast partners would need to be wooed as well. At a time when MLB teams increasingly rely on media rights as a prime revenue source, broadcasters would need to agree to a shorter season and fewer selling opportunities — and losing eight broadcasts may not make the rightsholders too happy. And, of course, there are ripple effects: a delay of the start of the season also means a delay for full-season Minor League Baseball leagues.