Rob Manfred has only been commissioner of Major League Baseball for one month but he has already set his sights on changing the game to appeal to a younger audience. Just recently Manfred has instituted new pace of play rules for the 2015 season. And just this week, Manfred expressed interest in shortening the season to 154 games, eight games less then the traditional 162 games. In 1961 after the American League instituted a 162 game schedule, one year later the National League followed suit and ever since 1962 there have been 162 Regular Season Major League games played. In a statement to ESPN, Manfred expressed interest in a 154 game schedule saying it was not off the table for the season to be shortened.
"I don't think length of season is a topic that can't ever be discussed," Manfred told ESPN.com. "I don't think it would be impossible to go back to 154 [games]."
Manfred's goal is to appeal to new audiences, and he has been very aggressive in his pursuit to attract new young fans. In an era where social media and things happening instantaneously rule, the slow nature of baseball has not exactly kept up with the times. Many people who are not baseball fans say that the season is too long. Other say that the game is too slow for them. Manfred is trying to attract fans of all sorts and try to make baseball "America's Pastime" again.
One thing Manfred may be missing is the fact that Major League Baseball grossed $8 billion in 2013 and teams are enjoying an era of prosperity. Even the Tampa Bay Rays, the lowest grossing team in baseball, reported revenues of $181 Million according to Forbes Magazine. Attendance is very healthy at many ballparks, not to mention the revenue each team gets from their TV contracts is at an all time high. Interest in the game has peaked and even after Yankees star Derek Jeter has called it a career, there are plenty of young players willing to take over as the "face of baseball"
Another thing to consider even if it is only eight games lost is the lost revenue from the games that would be cut. A typical day at the ballpark is very profitable for teams. Everything from tickets, concessions, parking, and merchandise sold in the team store is profit for every team. And with eight less games, there are fewer opportunities for the teams to make money off of the aforementioned things. Not to mention eight less games that can be televised leading to less advertising revenue made off of TV commercials.
The impact on the game would be of little significance. The Major League season is a grueling 162 game journey that begins in March at Spring Training and comes to an end in October when one team gets to hoist the World Series trophy. While the players would play less and have less chance for injury, stat totals would be lower than in a 162 game season and very few records would be threatened giving little reason for fans to be interested in a players' individual quest to break all-time records.
Baseball has always had the longest season in professional sports. While that may make casual fans tired of the game compared to the 16 game season of the NFL and the 82 game season of the NBA and NHL, the length of the season is part of what makes baseball special. The feeling of waking up every single day in the summer asking "Did they win last night?" is distinct. Part of the appeal is also the number of chances you have to make it to a game before the season is over. With 81 home dates to choose from fans have plenty of variety and choices on when to go to a game in person.
All in all, there is much to be lost even for cutting out only eight games. While it may not seem like much, in the bigger picture it all adds up. It looks like it's time for Manfred & Company to go back to the drawing board. Baseball is going to be baseball no matter what changes come upon the game. Baseball has remained virtually unchanged since it's inception. While other games have had complete overhauls of rules, schedules, and styles of play, baseball has stayed the same. And that's what makes baseball great.