What if baseball returned to pure seasons?

Up through 1960, the MLB had what is referred to as “pure seasons” every year. There were eight teams in each league and each of those teams would play the other seven teams 22 times before culminating in the World Series which would also serve as the only interleague matchup each season. This created a balance in baseball because no team would have the advantage of playing an inferior team more or avoiding a juggernaut for most of the season, and at the end of the 154-game season, the top team from either league would be World Series bound. 
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If the season were to end today the Indians who are the 19th best team in baseball by record would get an automatic spot in the divisional series. Conversely, the Yankees who currently hold baseball’s second best record would only make the playoffs as a wild card team. On paper this does not seem “fair,” but baseball is not always fair. However, at some point it has to be considered if baseball as a product overall is being hurt by penalizing teams strictly based off of their division. I’m not saying we are quite there yet, but I do think it is time to have a discussion and to start considering some ideas to create more balance and why not start by considering reverting back to a pure season?

In order for this to work there would have to be a slight adjustment in the number of games played each season. If each team has five games against the other 29 teams each season it would result in a 145 game season. I in no way like the idea of less baseball each season, but the alternative option here would be six games against each team which would result in a 174 game season. 162 games has long been described as grueling and players, most recently Anthony Rizzo, have been outspoken against how strenuous the schedule can be. Less games would allow for less baseball being played in the cold (at both ends of the schedule), more time for players to rest and subsequently less injuries, and more time for travel so players are not playing hours after landing from a flight.

Most important of all, every team would have an identical schedule, and if divisions were eliminated, as well, then each team would have the same exact opportunity to succeed as the next. Five games against each team would not only mean that each of a team’s five starters would get an opportunity against every team in baseball, it would also stand to reason that team aces would line up more frequently. Imagine a season where Luis Severino gets to matchup against Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, and Corey Kluber among others. Any baseball fan should be excited about seeing any of those names slated to start against each other.

By eliminating divisions there will be no easy paths to the playoffs. If MLB adopted this format and the season were to end today then the Yankees and the Red Sox would be one seeds (imagine these two meeting up in the World Series?) and the Braves (19-14), Mariners (19-14), Brewers (20-15) and Rockies (20-15) would claim the wild card spots. The Indians, who are currently in line to be the three seed in the American League would miss the playoffs altogether and the teams from the existing American League Central Division would be without a representative because its teams currently have five of the worst 12 records in baseball.

Going back to a pure season and eliminating divisions seems like two very large moves to make concurrently for a league that has long been recognized as slow to change. However, this would provide unequivocal parity between the opportunities all teams get. Maybe this is just a little too radical of an idea, but if a team finishes with one of the best records in the league and goes one-and-done in the wild card game then there will be some very unhappy fans.

Article By: Pat Rowley


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