In 1920, Major League Baseball expanded their season from 140 games per team to 154 games. Then in 1961, the league added some expansion teams and ended up with 162 game seasons. Of course, this is what is still used today. The league has since added even more teams and entire divisions, but thankfully stuck with 162 games. The way the current system works is each team plays 76 games against their division rivals, 66 games against non-division league teams and 20 games against interleague teams.
162 has always felt like an awkward number and since 1961, the MLB has had to find even more awkward ways to make 162 games fit. The main argument for keeping this amount of games in a season is that teams would have to give up revenue if there were fewer games, and players would have to play in the frigid months past October if it were any longer. If this system was flawless, we wouldn’t interject. But baseball is a dying sport and fans and players deserve better.
The concerns from fans about shortening seasons are understandable. Fans are crazy about statistics and records, and fewer games would interfere with them. However, they’re already being interfered with and they always have been. In 1968 the MLB raised the pitching mound. There were years of players taking steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in the 1990s and 2000s. In the last couple of years we have had to deal with sign-stealing scandals. The baseballs they play with now may or may not be juiced. Just this season the league introduced a universal designated hitter, a 60 game season, a three batter minimum rule for pitchers, expanded playoffs, and extra inning rules where runners start on second base with no outs.
The game is always changing and records and statistics will never be perfect representatives of anything. Baseball is dying because of lack of fan engagement and only a new format can fix it. The shot clock saved the NBA in 1954; now it’s time for a shortened season to save the MLB.
Here’s how this should work. There should be a 140 game season where each team plays their division rivals 16 times for a total of 64 games, they play each non-division league team six times for a total 60 games, and they play four times against five interleague teams, for a total of 20 games.
140 games should be enough to determine who the best team in each division is without any team completely running away with the division, which should keep fans engaged for a larger portion of the season. This also eliminates more than three weeks of the season which in theory would lessen the amount of injuries and general wear and tear, prolonging athletes’ careers and keeping the maximum level of play. Since this is an even amount of home and away games and home and away series, every owner will have the same chance to earn revenue. With MLB reportedly wanting to keep the expanded playoffs, players deserve a shortened regular season even more.
The MLB’s biggest problem is lack of fan engagement. This won’t be completely fixed by decreasing the amount of games by 14%, but it would definitely help. Simply put, in a 140 game season, the games matter more. Of course this is only the first step of a long process of reviving Major League Baseball. As they do with all rule changes, they should try it out for one season and see how it goes. Once they see how efficient this 140 game season is, it will be the future of the league.