Cries to shorten MLB season are misplaced
College Contributor Network
Part of what makes baseball baseball is the grueling the regular season -- 162 games. No other sport has a marathon like that. Think about it this way, from when the flowers start blooming until they die off, from Groundhog's Day to Halloween, from February to November, baseball is in action.
Another core piece of baseball culture is its permanently unsatisfied fans who fiend for the question marks and hypothetical ideas. It's almost as though if the World Series and MVP and Cy Young awards didn't exist, fans would be completely fine with just hashing out the correct answer themselves.
Combine these two qualities and we're left with a brilliant question that any baseball fan would love to debate: What if baseball were played just once a week?
Imagine all the geeky stat nerds talking that one over. Well, this baseball nerd is going to kick off the argument. So, to all the pundits who want baseball shortened to liven up the sport -- slow your roll. It would essentially murder the game.
Now before many of you go off about how football would automatically trump baseball in ratings and popularity, hear me out. While it's possible that football would defeat baseball in popularity, how can anyone be sure? To keep the question centered, I'm tossing out the outside variable of football. Let's purely keep this to the schedule affecting baseball unto itself.
The most apparent difference is the role of the ace. "Wouldn't the best starting pitcher on every team pitch, like, all the time!?" you ask. Great guess.
A true ace is already one of the most commanding forces in all of sports –- a guy that can almost single-handedly win a game. Just imagine if one started every single game. It's like that dominant poker player only one of your buddies knows but still randomly shows up every time you play. Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and the whole bunch would be living legends, but we'd see a substantial drop in offensive numbers and the game would be less exciting for the fair-weather fan.
Because baseball strategy is so cause and effect, if the aces began to play every game, then the batters would make adjustments. Their evolved advantage would be having a week to prepare for only a handful of pitchers. Hitters will start studying tendencies, weaknesses, favorite flavor of seeds, children's names, or whatever they have to know to get the upper hand.
If batters now study the few pitchers that are available, then things will again even out – pitchers will start studying hitters more intensely as well. Obviously, a single guy can't study nine people as well as a hitter can prepare for a small rotation of arms, but the week-long time frame would prove to be a huge difference.
Another potentially powerful change in the game would come on the defensive side. Yes, the use of defensive shifts is already increasing today, but its application would skyrocket if baseball were only played weekly.
Over 20 or 30 games, every single run would become crucial and managers couldn't afford to play a standard defensive setup against a dead-pull, left-handed hitter. We'll start to see expanded reports of the directional tendencies of hitters and those who tend to hit the ball to one side of the field will vanish (sorry Brian McCann, Mark Texiera, Adam Dunn and the like).
Much like the directional hitters having decreased roles, you can almost guarantee that utility players would disappear. It's no question that the first thought on a GM's mind in a 162-game season is health. How do you avoid running your star players into injuries and slumps? Utility players are the answer. They're the puzzle piece in the lineup that gives the everyday players a few days of rest every now and then. It's simple –- fewer games, less of a need for rest days, less of a need for the utility guys.
All these differences come together to make a nice concluding theme of decrease. Decrease might as well be the title of this article. The decrease in games leads to a decrease in starting pitchers, thus a decrease in directional hitters (while there may not be that many of them anyways), and leads to the decrease in utility players.
Mainly, the offense goes "poof." With borderline criminal pitching every game and hitting stats researched extensively, the runs would come in at a 1973 oil embargo-like clip –- obviously terrible for the sport. When most of the critics say the game is already boring and slow, the shortened schedule is just counter-intuitive.
If there's anything that people have learned over decades of baseball, it is to not tamper with it. Because as the cliché goes...
Andrew Morris is a sophomore at Syracuse University. People refer to him in the third person and he has an everlasting love for Orange, Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A's, Golden State Warriors, and Indianapolis Colts. Follow him on Twitter: @Andrewmo123