Back to the Future? MLB Commissioner Considers 154-Game Schedule

Rob Manfred
The Associated Press

Speaking to reporters in Houston on Wednesday night in Houston, new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred may have stirred up a hornet’s nest with one idea he broached: reverting to the 154-game schedule that baseball featured from 1904 through 1960 in the American League and 1904 through 1961 in the National League. From 1900-1903, MLB featured a 140-game schedule.

Manfred said, “Players have asked about 154. I think 154 is a topic that is complicated. It has big competitive and economic ramifications. Having said that, I think in the 20-something years I’ve worked in the game, there’s more conversation about it than there has been in a long time.”

Players and owners would likely face-off over a reduction in the season schedule; currently the 162 games are played over 183 days, leaving players only 21 days off, many of which require travel. The season often ends with the World Series being played in the cold of November, and the length of the season causes more wear and tear on the athletes.

Manfred admitted that the length of the schedule causes problems for players, telling the Associated Press, “One hundred and sixty-two games in 183 days, and a lot of those 21 days consumed by travel, is a pretty demanding schedule. By reputation I work pretty hard, and I don’t think I work 162 days out of 183. It’s a tough schedule.”

The owners, conversely, would lose four home games every season, and the concomitant loss of revenue would likely cause them to oppose a reduction in the schedule. The looming end to the current collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players after the 2016 season also ads tension to any disagreement brewing between the players and owners.

The switch to the 154-game schedule in 1961 in the American League prompted one of the game’s most famous controversies, as Roger Maris slugged 59 home runs in the first 154 games of the season, and added two more in the last eight games, including his 61st in the 162nd game. Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick, who had been friends with Babe Ruth, who blasted 60 home runs in 1927, insisted that an asterisk accompany Maris’s record despite an impotence of Major League Baseball’s top man to do any such thing.