Anthony Rizzo gave voice on Tuesday to what casual fans — and non-fans for that matter — have been saying for years. There’s just too much baseball.
The Cubs first baseman told ESPN radio that he thinks the game will be better off if there’s less of it, even if it means taking a pay cut.
“I think we play too much baseball,” Rizzo told ESPN 1000. “Yes, guys are going to take pay cuts. But are we playing this game for the money or do we love this game? I know it’s both, but in the long run it will make everything better.”
Interest in the game has waned for years with younger fans, and this season has seen an attendance drop that’s coincided with wintry weather interfering with spring games in ballparks across the country. How much the weather can be attributed to dwindling ticket sales won’t likely be known without a larger sample size after spring and summer truly set in.
But either way, it speaks to Rizzo’s point. Playing 162 regular-season games is excessive, and starting them when ice and snow are still in the forecast isn’t appealing for players or fans.
“I think playing in the cold sucks,” Rizzo said. “I was thinking about this the other day. When you think of Cubs and Cardinals, you think of a beautiful Saturday at Wrigley Field. You don’t think about playing in 20 degrees.”
But as much as baseball is looking to modernize the game for in increasingly attention-deficit society, things aren’t nearly desperate enough for MLB to actually consider reducing the season schedule.
What about the record books? In a game that’s inherently obsessed with numbers more than any other American sport, how could we ever stack the counting stats of players in a post 120-game season against those who played traditional 154- or 162-game sets? Aaron Judge wouldn’t get a fair shake at chasing Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle in the pantheon of great Yankees sluggers.
But the real case against a reduced schedule, of course, is money. Despite attendance woes and concerns over a disinterested Millennial fanbase, baseball is still printing money. Bloated TV contracts have ensured mass profits for all whether fans show up or not, even in Miami.
Fewer games means less money for teams, which means less money for players. And while Rizzo sounded open to a pay cut, he’s likely in the overwhelming minority on that front.
So as appealing as a reduced schedule is for some players and casual fans, until the money stops flowing, 162 games a year will remain the norm.
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