Bob Nightengale of USA Today spoke with Tony Clark and Rob Manfred in Cincinnati before the All-Star Game and the topic of the 154-game season came up. The inspiration: players’ increasing displeasure with day games after night games, more extreme travel and fewer days off which the expanded playoffs have occasioned. Nightengale:
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, each said Tuesday that the topic would be heavily discussed in negotiations for their next collective bargaining agreement, which expires in December 2016.
“In looking back from the time I played to now that I’m watching what these guys are doing, I don’t know how they do it,” Clark said. “What these guys are being asked to do with respect to games’ start times, with respect to the travel distances themselves, with respect to performing at an elite level with three days off a month, is a challenge.
Nightengale also notes that, at least until recently, amphetamines helped players’ stay up for a long season, especially those day games. Obviously that’s not an option any longer and was never a good one.
Still, as I argued back in May the last time this came up, I’ll believe that this is a viable proposal and not just an All-Star break talking point when an owner says he’s on board with it. Why? Because if you hack eight games off the season players will likely be expected to take salary cuts they may not much like. But the owners will lose far, far more money by losing four home games than the players will lose. And that’s just at the gate. Figure in the haircuts they’d be asked to take from their broadcast partners and vendors and then figure what kind of municipal blowback they’d get from parking lot operators, vendors and the like due to the loss of four days worth of revenue and it quickly becomes a conversation about way more than tired players.
Possible? Sure. But I’m still highly skeptical of the viability of a schedule cutback. No professional sports league has ever done such a thing, and for good reason. They’re in the money-making business, not the player sleep schedule accommodation business, and the next time they place player well-being over the bottom line will be the first time.