The new baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been connected to a lot of speculative stories about changes that might be coming to MLB. DH in the NL? Going back to Montreal? Banning defensive shifts? One he's been connected to a couple times is shortening the season back down to 154 games, and of the above suggestions, it's probably the least controversial.
As anyone who has seen Billy Crystal's classic 2001 film, 61*, knows, MLB used to have a 154 game schedule prior to 1961*. Both leagues had consistently used the 22 games * 14 teams formulation since 1920, but with expansion in the 60s came a desire for continued league scheduling balance. Of course, that quickly got thrown out of the window simply because MLB expanded faster than anyone wanted to expand the schedule. Instead they came up with varying formulations of unbalanced schedules.
Now the 154 game schedule is coming back in vogue, but not for scheduling balance. With interleague play going on year-round, how the schedule is formulated has taken a backseat in importance. Instead, people cite player safety issues, or not having the World Series compete with football, basketball, and Major League Soccer Cup final.
I say looking to the past is a good way to get into a minor traffic accident while pulling into the parking lot of Fry's. Instead of reducing the schedule, MLB should be expanding.
Why? In our modern consumer culture, there's never enough. Look at Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe concept. Who cares that each movie has a similar bland house flavor, and nothing ever really happens. They have a schedule lined up to release 11 inter-connected movies through 2019, nevermind the TV show tie-ins. And don't even get Bob Iger started on the merch possibilities.
MLB should building its own universe concept, and to do that they need to expand to 348 games. Each team plays the other 29 teams 12 times: 6 at home, and 6 away.
MLB Expanded Universe enables baseball junkies to really go all-in on their obsession, and it gives MLB a better chance to reel in younger fans. There's nothing the kids these days like more than a product that has a quickly receding value by oversaturation.
Think of the marketing opportunities teams would have with an expanded schedule. The Yankees have recently shown the value in embracing record breaking. And if MLB is livid that a bunch of roiders are at the top of the home run list, what better way to fix it then by giving legitimate players hundreds of extra opportunities a season.
Of course, the physical exertions would be a concern, but hey, that's why they call it 'work,' right? I go to the office just about every day of the year, never mind catching up on things most weekends. Where's my multi-million dollar contract to go sit down in Cabo sipping pina coladas during the winter? Where's my 'international signing bonus?'
Imagine a world where you can watch baseball every day of the year. To me, that sounds like heaven.
*NL didn't use the 162 game schedule until 1962