Reducing The Length Of The MLB Season Is A No-Brainer

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has started to make noises about reducing the length of the regular season in the next collective bargaining agreement. There is only suggestion on the table and it’s to scale the season back to 154 games, the length used in both leagues until 1961.
The American League went to 162 that year and the National League followed a year later. Going back to 154 is not only a welcome idea, it’s a no-brainer and should be used as a way of expanding postseason play.
Let’s begin with the obvious—baseball can’t compete with the NFL and even college football, particularly in a final week of the regular season where more than half the teams are playing completely meaningless games and only a handful are really playing do-or-die baseball.  I can’t imagine too much revenue is going to be lost by giving up these games.
Creating an extra week-plus will also allow MLB to make some helpful changes to the playoff format. The first thing I would like to see is for the Division Series round to go best-of-seven. This round has too much of a “lightning round” quality about it, where it seems luck plays an outsized role.
I’m not saying it’s a “crapshoot”, as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane once did, in an attempt to explain his teams’ repeated failures in LDS play—you don’t see a lot of truly shocking upsets–but the best-of-seven is the truer test of pitching depth and allows luck to balance out.

From the standpoint of the fans, this would also guarantee every team in the LDS round at least two home games. If you win a division title or survive a wild-card game, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that the fans should get two chances to attend playoff baseball—a chance that isn’t taken for granted in a lot of small markets.
Speaking of the fans, that brings us to the wild-card game. With extra time on the calendar we can turn this into a two-of-three series, with Game 2 being held at the site of the second wild-card. As a fan, I enjoy the one-and-done drama of the wild-card game, but I can safely say I’d also enjoy a best-of-three, and this change at least ensures that every team that makes the playoffs gets a home game.
As a traditionalist who values the division championship over a wild-card, this change also makes it tougher on the latter to advance through the playoffs. Wild-card teams won’t be subjected to elimination in one game, but instead of having to burn up their top pitcher to reach the LDS, they will have to use, at minimum, their top two starting pitchers.
This adds to the advantage the top seeds in each league have when they face the ultimate survivor, which in turn adds to the value of the regular season.
It’s a simple solution—let’s get rid of eight games that nobody cares about anyway, while still using a schedule length firmly rooted in baseball’s great traditions. Let’s use the space to make the postseason a truer test of excellence and depth and enhance the fan experience in more cities. All of which is done while not devaluing the regular season race one iota. If this decision isn’t a no-brainer, I don’t know what is.