Ask Gary: Would baseball shorten season?

by Gary Shelton on April 28, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

This year has seen a record number of MLB  games postponed in April due to weather and a lot more games have been played in very adverse conditions just to get them in with very few fans attending. Fans, players and most people with common sense agree that 162 games is too many and the season is too long. The Rays play each team in their division 19 times. Would anyone really care if they played only 15 times each and lopped off inter-league play? Starting the season at the end of April and ending it before the end of September with fewer games would make a lot of sense. Do you ever foresee the day when the baseball season would be shortened?

Larry Beller

I certainly wouldn't care, because I don't think a baseball game should resemble an Iditarod. But I think the owners might.

I certainly think that TV would want to pay less money for fewer games. And there you have the crux of the issue. It isn't about fan comfort. It isn't about the players' good. It's about keeping 81 home dates per team.

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We have the best of the early- and late-seasons in Florida. It's a bit cooler in those days (July is a clay oven, as you know).

Our fathers (maybe grandfathers) grew up with a 154-game schedule. Babe Ruth hit his 60 homers, and Joe DiMaggio had his hitting streak, in 154-game seasons. So the game would be just fine.

But reason has no place in a world of greed. I don't think we'll see a cutback in the length of the season. I hope I'm wrong, especially with expanded playoffs. You can play football in the snow. You aren't supposed to play baseball in it.

I noticed Tom Brady's agent said he's planning on playing in 2018 and beyond - like I care, but it got me wondering - what does an agent do for a professional athlete anymore? I know they have an agent to negotiate a contract once every few years, that I understand - and the big stars? Maybe the agent works to get them endorsements - but an agent to speak for the player because - ah - the guy can't speak for himself? I did notice Gronk told the Pats he is playing in '18 - must not have an agent. What is the role of agents these days?

Cecil DeBald

To be honest, it's less important than it's ever been, Cecil. A lot of contracts are slotted, with no room for holdouts or for breakthrough contracts.

Then, there is this. Agents do less. At one point, an agent handled a player's investments and his money, but that's less and less true. He used to be responsible for whatever endorsements that were out there. No more. These days, players have several agents taking care of things.

Still, players need some help in dealing with the multi-millionaire owners, who can bully and put pressure on players. A go-between, if he's a good one, is never a bad idea.

Every now and then, you'll hear about a player who operates without an agent. That always made sense to me. Most players are slotted in their first contracts, anyway. Why do they need to give loads of cash to an agent.

Now, I'd feel differently if I were a player in the last year of a contract, because you need an agent to sort through any offer from your current team and the offers from your next one. A sharp agent can make some money for his client then.

Here's an interesting fact I read on ESPN. Of current agents certified by the NFL, 42 percent have zero clients. Twenty-five percent of the agents represent 78 percent of the players.

I remember you writing - a month or two ago, not sure - that fans don't "love losers" anymore, think it was in regards to the 1962 Mets, Lovable Losers. Following up on that, why did the fans of, say, 50 years ago love and support teams that, it seemed, never won much of anything, yet now fans turn on their favorite teams if they have a poor stretch in a season let alone a poor season - or God forbid several poor seasons in a row. I grew up outside of Chicago in the 50's and the Cubs were much loved, yet they only made it to .500 once - in '52. What has changed, Gary? Have we fans turned into people with egos so big, and so weak, that we need to root only for winners in order to feel good about ourselves?

Cecil Debald

I think a few things have changed, Cecil. Start with us, the fans.

We demand instant gratification this days. It's why coaches are fired quicker than they ever have been. Part of that is ESPN and the rest of the right-now media. Someone is talking sports every minute, which kind of rubs another team's success in your face.

If I had to guess at one prevailing reason for it, it would be the cost of things. Going to a game used to be a lot more reasonable than it is these days. For ten bucks, you could see a game, eat a hot dog and drink a beer. Now, you can't even park for that. It creates a world where the fans wants more for his money, and they want it now.

The rest of the world is the same way. It costs tons to go a theme park these days. I don't want Space Mountain to be shut down. It costs more for a movie. I want a good one. It costs a fortune for a car and a small fortune for a meal.

It's created a world where we all think of ourselves as experts. I used to say that people didn't want my opinion, they wanted to tell me theirs. I was joking, but we have crossed over into a world where we have less and less patience.

With the Mets, Marv Throneberry was a delight and Roger Craig and Choo-Choo Coleman and Casey Stengel. Everyone delighted in those guys.

Now think of the Browns, who have one win in two years. Do you see anyone laughing? Personally, I'm just amazed that a coach can survive with one win in two years.

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