CINCINNATI (AP) — Cutting the length of Major League Baseball’s regular-season schedule could be tied to reconfiguring the postseason.
Baseball players are increasingly complaining of the toll of playing 162 games in 183 days. The schedule was 154 games before the AL added eight games when it expanded in 1961, and the National League adopted the new format when it added two teams for the 1962 season.
"A shortened schedule is a major, major economic issue," Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday.
"We sell out in a lot of markets in terms of gates. The gates are really valuable to us. We have television commitments. Each local contract varies, but there are game guarantees that could be affected by a shortened season."
Baseball’s national television contracts with Fox, ESPN and Turner run through the 2021 season and are based on the current format. The 30 teams have local broadcast deals that would be impacted by a schedule change.
"Usually when you have a big economic issue where you’re giving up revenue, you got to figure out something that is offsetting in the other direction," Manfred said, "and the one obvious possibility is you make a change in terms of playoff format. I’m not suggesting that we’re anywhere on either of those topics, but I do think if you shorten the season, there would be pressure to look at the postseason, as well."
Manfred said that in bargaining for a labor contract that starts with the 2016 season, management wanted to examine travel after Sunday night ESPN games, when players can arrive at their next destination at close to or past dawn.
"We’re at a point in time where perhaps any number of things the guys are being asked to do are directly affecting the way they play, and that’s not beneficial for anybody," union head Tony Clark said. "You’re hoping at the end of the day that you can put your head on the pillow anywhere between 4 and 5 a.m."
Teams generally must have a day off when traveling from the Pacific Time Zone to the East, but players have complained about playing East Coast night games followed by West Coast night games the following day.
"I don’t know that it’s surprising that bodies are breaking down when you start to get to June, or you start to get to July, or guys are needing more breaks than they otherwise would," Clark said.
He also didn’t think expanded rosters would solve this issue.
"Those players are still going to be traveling on the plane that is arriving at 4 or 5 in the morning," he said. "So you’ll have more guys to choose from, but you’ll just have more guys who are tired."