THE ABYSS GAZES BACK

FIFTY THOUSAND MOONS

Monday, April 11, 2016

These early washouts - and the looming crunch - remind us all that baseball needs a 154-game schedule

Joe Girardi is bummed. The Yankees don't play tonight. That means two days in a row without games. They can enjoy a veritable all-star break in April, a month known for waterworks - secure in knowing that, come August, they will face a scheduling crunch that is barely a notch below group waterboarding. By then, bullpen elbow tendons will be tearing, and their everyday lineup will be ground to the pulp.

It doesn't have to be this way. Soon, talks will begin on the next MLB-players union agreement. It's time for both sides to do the right thing: Baseball must return to the 154-game schedule.

Eight games. That's what we're talking about. Eliminate eight games. The pennant race still runs molten through September, and games end in early October, (though the World Series doesn't need to conclude in November.) Consider the advantages:

The home run records. 

Quickly now - no Googling - who are the top five MLB single-season HR totals? There's Barry Bonds, right? And Mark McGwire? And Sammy Sosa, and - um - three guys who, if you read the pious Gammonites, cannot set foot in Cooperstown without bursting into flames.

The single-season record stands at 73, held by Bonds. Next comes McGwire at 70, then Sammy Sosa at 66, then McGwire at 65, then Sosa at 64, and Sosa again at 63 and by now, we all get the joke, right? There is no HR record worth remembering, because nobody cares anymore. For a few steroidal years, the game became a pinball arcade. The lords of MLB winked at the use of steroids so fans would forget the 1994-95 strike, then announced a war on drugs. Has anyone ever won a war on drugs?

Thus, baseball tossed aside the greatest record in sports - Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in 1927 - which was achieved in 154 games. Return to 154, and Ruth becomes the gold standard again.

Some might say the HR record would still held by Bonds or McGwire, because maybe they hit more than 60 home runs in a certain 154 games. Those people are fools. You can't choose the first or last 154 games of a season, because it's not the season. Their totals came over 162 games, and they can keep their records - with an asterisk... like Roger Maris received. (BTW, HE SHOULD BE IN THE HALL.)

The grind. 

Last May, the Yankees used 21 pitchers in 22 days, farming somebody out to Scranton nearly every day, to accommodate a ludicrous schedule. At one point, the Yankees played 30 games in 31 days - during which they lost three elbows - Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Martin and Chase Whitley. A pitching staff cannot take 30 games in 31 days.

Once upon a time, teams used 10-pitcher staffs. Now, the Yankees go with 12 or 13 - and it's still not enough. One 15-inning marathon, or 15-14 shootout, and the bullpen becomes a MASH unit.

Eliminating eight games won't change the tenor of a pennant race. It's long enough. Sprinkle eight off-days over the schedule, and who knows - you might save several arms. When a game is rained out - (or postponed due to police-shooting riots) - it won't deal a crushing blow to the team's chances in September, as they play the new "twi-night doubleheader," where entire crowds are replaced. 

Shrink the schedule. Save elbows. Save marriages. Save Babe Ruth. Damn, it's so simple. Let's get this done.

5 comments:

John M said...

This is an incredibly sensible idea. The rationale for 162 was the expansion of the time. The idea back then was to maintain a balanced schedule where teams played each other the same number of times. Today, it doesn't matter who a team plays or how many times any two teams meet, since a computer somewhere spits out the matchups, some seemingly at random, around the bizarre intradivisional tilt (which also deserves a huge heave-ho).

There are so many teams today (you could argue there are 'way too many) that the number of games a team plays or, to a large extent, who the opponents are, is completely arbitrary. At least 154 has history on its side. (How come analysts will wax rhapsodic over the perfection of the 90 foot basepath or of the distance from the mound to the plate, but give no such respect to the 154 game schedule? Not a perfect comparison, but tradition that works is something worth keeping, if only for records' sake, as Duque points out.)

The entire reason for 162 is out the window. Let's throw 162 out along with it.

Mustang said...

I wish your idea would help Babe Ruth, but:

Most Homers in a Regular Season, in Team Games 1 Through 154

1. Barry Bonds (2001) 68
T2. Mark McGwire (1998) and Sammy Sosa (1998) 63
4. Sammy Sosa (1999) 61
5. Babe Ruth (1927) 60

el duque said...

That's a selective choice of games. Why not choose the last 154 from those seasons? Or eliminate the first few games, if one of them didn't hit a HR during them, and then start the 154 count from his first home run?

The record for most home runs in a 154 game span is Bonds'.

But a season is a SEASON. He didn't play in a 154 game SEASON, when pitchers were more rested and games mattered more. You are completely, utterly wrong.

Take it back.

Anonymous said...

I am the "Anonymous", who has been asking for a return to 154 game season for ages, In addition, there are too many teams in the major leagues, which dilutes talent. There is also a dilution of talent with managers (examples Joe Torre and his pet Joe Girardi, both of whom ruined more pitchers, by ridiculous use of warming up relief pitchers) There should be more day games also, as playing most night games takes away from drinking time for players. I have many more suggestions to improve the quality of baseball, but two most important would be to ban car salesmen from Wisconsin from ruling the game. and most important of all, ban children of owners from inheriting teams!!

Anonymous said...

AGREED ON THE 154 GAME SCHEDULE.........AS FOR MY TAKE ON A TOUCHY SUBJECT FOR ME, STEROIDS, MY OPINION IS NONE OF THE PLAYERS CAUGHT,(PAPI, BONDS, MANNY, CLEMENS,SOSA, AROD, PALMEIRO, MCGWIRE, ETC.) OR HALF HEARTEDLY ADMITTED TO USING ILLEGAL PED'S, (MIKE PIAZZA), SHOULD 100%, NEVER BE VOTED INTO THE HALL OF FAME- (ALREADY TOO LATE WITH PIAZZA, HE'S IN)-......THIS SHOULD BE THEIR "PUNISHMENT".....THEY ALL ALREADY HAVE MADE MULTI-MILLIONS, AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS....WHY LET THEM HAVE THIS TOO???...NO WAY.