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Whether baseball expands playoffs or not, Cardinals chairman advocates for shrinking regular season to 154 games

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Baseball

JUPITER, Fla. -- A proposal to expand Major League Baseball's postseason to a larger field of teams and introduce some reality-TV twists to the selection process has been kicked around within owners meetings, and regardless of where those discussions go Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has an idea for the schedule.

The regular season should be shorter.

"I personally am in favor of a shorter season regardless of what the playoff structure is," DeWitt said, watching his team go through spring training drills. "I think 162 games is a lot of games. I'm an advocate for going back to 154. It's a grind. There's a lot of travel. So, I'm probably in the minority of that but when I have an opportunity to speak up about it, I do speak up about it. I prefer a shorter schedule."

For decades, baseball had a 154-game schedule, but when expansion arrived in the 1960s, the schedule felt it, too. The National League went to a 162-game schedule for the 1962 season. The American League shifted to a 162-game schedule a year earlier, and it was during the 1961 season that Roger Maris hit 61 home runs and was affixed with an asterisk for years because of the increase from 154 games to 162.

Changes galore are on the table and being discussed as the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement nears, after 2021. There is growing acceptance from NL owners like DeWitt for the addition of the designated hitter, if not universally then for more games. There is discussion about scrapping the way interleague play is handled and going to a schedule where every team plays every team each season, or close to it. Driving those discussions are experiences like the one the Cardinals had where Mike Trout, the best player in the game, did not appear in St. Louis with the Angels until last season, his ninth in the majors.

Major League Baseball has also sought overseas trips for its teams -- the Cardinals are headed to London this June to face the Cubs -- and the taxing travel has added to the wear and tear on teams.

 

DeWitt brought that up as a leading reason to slash the schedule down to the 154 games that the National League had in Stan Musial's day and before.

Another reason would be the expanded playoffs.

Those games would fill that week deleted from the regular season, and that would allow an expanded playoff without baseball starting in mid-March or reaching into November.

"There was a presentation at an MLB meeting, and everybody was very enthusiastic," DeWitt said. "Maybe not about every last element of it, but in general, about the possibilities that it would bring. We walked out and it was, 'Wow, this looks pretty interesting.'"

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