OK, enough is enough, time to solve the CBA and get ready to play ball.
How? By giving the owners what they really, really want, in exchange for the players getting all the peripheral stuff like salary and years until arbitration and free agency that don’t matter nearly as much. With all the added income they’ll get, the owners can afford to be generous, or at least a little less grasping.
And this solution should go a long way toward ending, or at least, reducing, the godawfulness of tanking.
What do the owners really, really want?
Playoffs. Lots and lots and lots of playoffs. Well, specifically the TV billions that playoffs bring in.
We know the owners want seven teams per league in the playoffs. We know the players stupidly offered six instead of starting negotiations by going back to four. We know that, either way, it makes MLB look more and more like the NBA — where, as the saying went back before LeBron, they played 81 games to eliminate Cleveland.
Thing is, for the MLBPA to cave to seven teams per league would only allow the owners to dig in more on other things, so it’s time to take the big jump — and put every team into the playoffs, every year!
Radical? Heck, states have been doing that with high school playoffs for decades! Nothing to it.
How would it work? Easy.
First, a restructure.
We start by getting rid of the divisions, making each league 15 teams, top to bottom. Yes, I know — this hurts White Sox records, both team and individual, because they no longer will get to mostly play teams that don’t belong in the majors. But we need a balanced schedule for the sake of fairness with what’s to come. Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to drop by the GuRF and see real major-leaguers on the other team instead the AAAA (if that) losers the Sox play most of the season now?
Next, a reschedule.
The removal of divisions makes it much easier to come up with a truly balanced schedule:
- Each team plays every team in its league four times
- Each team plays every team in the other league twice, alternating home field yearly
- The three- or four-game series would be replaced by two-game series, Tuesday-Wednesday, Thursday-Friday, and Saturday-Sunday, with all Mondays off, adjusted as necessary for holidays.
Wait! That’s not 162 games!
Good work on the math. It would be 56 games in-league, 30 interleague, for a total of 86. Much, much better.
Beginning the season in early April (or late March, even!) in northern cities, which make up half or more of the teams depending on your dividing line, is just stupid. Sure, the White Sox sell out on Opening Day, but after that, go to a game in April and you’ll spend the time looking desperately for one of the two concession stands open to serve you and the dozen other paying customers. And the only open restroom.
Instead, start the season at the beginning of May. With six games per week plus an All-Star break, the regular season would wrap up in mid-August, followed by a few off-days to build up tension. And when the season starts, that’s the trade deadline — no dumping your good players during the season if it’s going badly.
That leaves lots and lots of time for lots and lots of playoffs, bringing in lots and lots of money.
Let the playoffs begin!
As the regular season winds up, we’ve got the teams in each league ranked 1 through 15, with tiebreakers for head-to-head play, head-to-head runs, and total run differential, in that order.
The top team in each league gets a first-round bye (with expansion to 32 teams, no bye). Everybody else starts a playoff series: 14 total series all at once, enough to gouge money out of at least half a dozen networks, if not more. And in this age of Netflixivization, the networks are so desperate for programming that doesn’t lend itself to streaming, they’ll pay plenty.
And there won’t be any wishy-washy, one-game, best-of-three, or best-of-five series, either. No, sir — it’s best-of-seven all the way, the opening weekend of March Madness carried out for almost two weeks. Call it Late Summer Lunacy, and start counting the money.
At the end of the first round, the season is over for seven teams in each league, and we move on to round two. Next would come the round of four, then the league championship, leading up to the World Series.
That’s four rounds within each league. With travel days and a day between the rounds, each would take 10 days.
Which is perfect, because the 40 days (and nights — Biblical precedent!) would take us to the first of October, when God meant for the World Series to start.
For those who think 86 regular season games is too few
Just make it six games versus every team in your league. That adds 28 games and runs the total to 114, so the season could start mid-April (still really too soon in the north, but okay, if you insist) and run through the end of August. Trade deadline would still be Opening Day.
That would mean both the league championships and World Series would be in October, but at least there wouldn’t still be baseball when kids are trying to trick-or-treat.
Not as good as Plan A, but workable for fans who own parkas.
Salaries and tanking
Naturally, all players would be entitled to a full year of pay, even the half or so whose season ends in August. That’s only fair.
It’s also useful in reducing— though not eliminating — tanking. That’s because owners would be absolutely seething about paying players to go home and spend Labor Day weekend with their families. They’d want to make sure they get all the work out of them they can, and that means staying alive in the playoffs.
Besides, it could become much more valuable to end the season 12th or 13th in your league instead of 14th or 15th, just as there have been a lot more upsets by No. 12 or No. 13 in the NCAA Tournament than by Nos. 14-16. Sure, major upsets are less likely in best-of-seven than single-game rounds, but there are enough upsets in MLB, NBA and NHL playoffs now to provide plenty of hope.
Please pass along this sage advice to anyone you know on the negotiating committees.
It may take a few days to get minor details worked out and schedules rewritten, but that’s OK, because with the regular season not starting until the beginning of May, there’s plenty of time for all the personnel stuff, like arbitration, free agent-signing, and such before spring training needs to start. Then: