Realigning the MLB schedule
Every year Major League Baseball celebrates Opening Day. And then the day after most teams get an off day. It’s an annual tradition as much as Opening Day is. But why? To build a day into the schedule to protect against a rain out on Opening Day. But the question is: Is this the best way to do it?
Rusty Groppel, one of my favorite Twitter follows, tweeted this this morning:
It’s a way better concept than what Major League Baseball currently uses in many regards. The only problem is really figuring out what you do with people who paid a surplus for Opening Day tickets to a game that is no longer Opening Day. But I’m sure that could be sorted out.
And it got me thinking about fleshing out a concept I’ve had for awhile for how Major League Baseball could realign their schedule, because it’s something they’re going to have to look at if they’re serious about an expanded playoff format.
So here it is:
The first step is to set the parameters for your season. I would institute a season that runs from the first Friday in April through the last Sunday in September. This season that would run from April 2nd (today) through September 26th. That gives you 178 days to play games. Compared to this season which runs from April 1st through October 3rd.
Fewer days to play games means you need to reduce the schedule. Going with that, teams should play two three game sets a week with Monday being a permanent off day for make up days and travel. Alternate home and away. So one week you would play six games at home, the next week you would play six games on the road, and so forth. With three days off for an All Star Break, this gives you a 150 game schedule.
Now, this does mean that there is no baseball on Mondays. And yes, you could easily adjust the schedule to alternate Monday and Thursday days off so that there isn’t a night without baseball, but that’s not my goal here. My priority is to create viewing habits in my fans. Schedule consistency is required to accomplish that. That way fans don’t have to think about whether or not their team may be playing. If it’s not a Monday, they are.
I’m not a proponent of an expanded playoff format, but I’m also not naïve enough to believe that it’s not coming. And I’ll admit that this is where this plan needs the most polish. Ending the season a little earlier would provide ample time to add games to the postseason without pushing the season too far into the winter. Unfortunately, I think to make expanded playoffs really make sense, you need a multiple of 4 teams from each league. Which means ideally you need at least two more teams so that more than half of each league isn’t making the playoffs. (Come on Raleigh!)
Don’t soft pedal it with stops at 12 teams and then 14 teams either, just take the step to an 16 team playoff format. The brackets make more sense and we’re not talking about how extended layoffs affect top seeded teams.
The first round starts for everyone on the Tuesday after the season as a best of five series. The #1 seed in each league get to play all five games at home. Everyone else will play five games in six days with the better seed getting three games at home.
The quarterfinal round starts on the Tuesday and will run a best of seven through the next Wednesday in a 2–3–2 format as the series’ currently run.
There would be two days before the league championship series starts on the Saturday and runs through the next Sunday in the same 2–3–2 format.
The World Series would then run from the Tuesday to the next Wednesday, once again in keeping with the 2–3–2 format with the season ending no later than November 3rd this year after a possible 38 days of playoffs.
It’s a thought and it’s about creating a consistency that fans can rely on so that they don’t have to think about what to watch when they turn on their television. They can just keep it tuned to their local regional sports network — ahem, looking at you Bally Sports — and watch baseball.
Jon Doble has been writing about the St. Louis Cardinals since 2010. You can find him on Twitter at @GroundRuleDoble. Thank you for reading.