When video tried to kill baseball’s radio stars

Wednesday, SABR’s Chuck Hildebrandt articulated something that I’ve had in the back of mind for a couple of weeks, but could never quite get to the front. It’s about this notion that somehow 154 games would make a lot more sense than 162 games. Fewer injuries. Fresher players. Maybe. 

Hildebrandt:

There is some general merit to the latter point, although the funniest thing to me about this debate is that the number of games most advocates invariably choose to reduce the season to is 154.  The difference between 162 and 154 is not all that great, less than 5% of games, so would a season of 154 games provide all that much more relief to an everyday player than one of 162?  That seems a somewhat dubious proposition.  So why is 154 always the magic number in these debates?  Why not 144, or 140, or 134? Might it be that nostalgia plays a significant role in the advocacy of the 154 solution? I might place a bet on that, if one were available.

Exactly! There is absolutely nothing special about 154, although you essentially do have to just choose some number arbitrarily and then construct a defense of that number.

Here’s the best part of Hildebrandt’s piece, though: He found a news item from 1964 in which ABC-TV suggested that Major League Baseball adopt a 60-game schedule, playing only on weekends. You know, because that’s when people would watch sports on television.

Now, before you say ABC-TV was all crazeballs and stuff, here are two other things they (or someone there) advocated: a college-football playoff system, and a points system that would determine the No. 1 golfer every year.

Hey, don’t we have those things now? Radical doesn’t mean crazy. Necessarily.

But here’s why I don’t believe in drastically shortening the baseball schedule. Or, rather, that the schedule will be drastically shortened…

Just look around. The NFL plays just once per week because that’s just about all the sport allows, physically. The NBA and the NHL play just three times per week because that’s just about all those sports allow, physically. In every sport, the players and owners want to play as often as they reasonably can, for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks.

The sport of baseball, by its very nature, allows for games every day. Hell, they’d play 170 games every season if the players wouldn’t squawk (they would). Only 60 games per season, though? Or 75? Or 140? Nope. Because that’s not where the money is.