Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have been going back-and-forth on proposals about the pay and the number of games that could happen this season if we get baseball back. With ranges from 48 games up to 114 games, and more than a few numbers between, the question has been asked more than a couple of times – how many games makes the season a legitimate season?

Eno Sarris of The Athletic took a look at the difference in what a season of 80 games vs a season of 50 games could mean. There are a few different ways to ask and answer the question about the differences in a season. This one intrigued me the most, though, because to me it had more value: How many games does it take to know a team’s true talent?

That’s important because we play a regular season to find out who the best team is, right? Right. There is a whole lot of detail, some math, some graphs and charts – so be sure to check out the article (linked above) – and the conclusion is that around 60 games is where things really start to show the true talent level of a team in a season. Obviously as you begin to add games you get closer to the true talent level from there, but the data suggests that 60 is when you really start to see it.

After those details, the article dives into which teams would benefit most, or least, from a 50 game season versus and 82 game season. The Cincinnati Reds were among the teams that saw their playoff odds increase with the longer season, going from a 40% chance in an 82 game season down to just a 30% chance in a 50 game season. The Cubs, Brewers, and the Pirates saw better odds in a shorter season among the teams that would be in the National League Central. Cincinnati and St. Louis were both on the other side of the coin, with better playoff odds the longer the season goes.

The 2020 Reds were built to compete. The front office went out and made moves in the last 18 months to build one of the better rotations in the league and add two middle of the order bats to the lineup that already features one of the premiere sluggers in baseball (hello Mr. Suarez!). This was supposed to be their season after what feels like decades of struggle (it’s been less than a decade since the Reds made the playoffs, but 2020 has already lasted two decades). You never know what’s going to happen and that’s why they play the games. But the projections and expectations say that Cincinnati improves their playoff odds with more baseball being played. Everyone but the owners (or at least some of them) seems to want more baseball instead of less baseball – but that doesn’t mean we’re going to get it, either.

15 Responses

  1. Klugo

    Though this may be true, a shorter season would make for a more exciting and competitive one. Personally, I’d like 100 game regular season with an expanded playoff.

    • Colorado Red

      Getting too late for a 100 game season, I would still like 80 or 82 games.
      Maybe a suggestion for both sides here.
      81 game season. 80% of prorated salary.
      If the extended playoffs are completed, get 100% of prorated salary.
      To the owners and players, do not kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m guessing we get something around 60 games and the owners are furious that it wasn’t fewer.

  2. CFD3000

    It’s incredibly disappointing, though sadly not surprising, that the Owners of Major League Baseball franchises do not seem to actually enjoy or care about Major League Baseball. Owning a team is about money, of course. But it should also be about being a temporary caretaker in a long line of owners with an obligation to hand off that legacy to the next generation of owners. Baseball is more than a business. Right now the Owners are busy undermining that legacy and their own businesses. The worst part is, I honestly believe that the Owners think their businesses, and baseball itself are bulletproof and cannot be diminished. I think they’re wrong about that – they’re lighting the tinder that will burn it all down unless they change course. I hope they do.

    • BK

      And if the Owners do as you suggest and simply eat the losses this year, losses that legitimately may exceed $3B, it will take years for them to recoup the losses. Whatever the size the losses end up being, expect them to be absorbed over time by each team’s controllable expenses: team payrolls will be cut, player development investments will be stopped, etc. That’s not really taking a long view of the game.

      Don’t get me wrong, asking the players to play this season for less than 50% of the “guaranteed salaries” is an enormous ask. But make no mistake, the players, pretending that MLB won’t incur losses at a level that will fundamentally change the economic landscape in MLB is truly shortsighted. The Service Time they’ve fought for will be meaningless when few teams are looking to take on payroll.

      • Klugo

        Yes but we all know the owners are going to cut back even if the players do cave.

      • BK

        @Klugo, I think you point is true, because it is my educated guess that most of the Owners are facing a significant loss, no matter how the negotiation plays out. However, how much they cut back in the future will depend largely on how much they lose this year.

        Expect this acrimony to continue well into the offseason. The fundamental problem is the CBA pits the sides against each other rather than giving them common goals. The Owners would jump at the opportunity to share revenues (known cost, shared risk). The players went on strike to avoid the model that underpins each of the other major sports. All of the other major sports are working together to solve health concerns as their contracts work in both good times and bad. The MLB CBA has only worked because MLB has enjoyed growing revenues for an unusually long time. We are seeing the corrosive effects of what is an antiquated labor/management model.

      • Colorado Red

        BK,
        If this is true, let them open the book, with a NDA, to a 3rd party, and start the negotiations there.
        Owners may be lying through there eye teeth about the loses.
        They may bet full money from TV contracts, and most of there other costs are not there high.

      • BK

        MLBPA either employs financial analysts or they could. An experienced financial analyst can estimate MLB’s profit/loss within a few percentage points. MLBPA’s argument that Owners need to “open their books” to prove financial hardship is total red herring.

        The CBA details the level of transparency the Owners owe the Players. If MLBPA wants greater transparency, they need to negotiate that at the bargaining table. Unless they are willing to entertain the Owners initial offer (Tony Clark publicly shot down revenue sharing before the Owners even formally presented it as an offer) of revenue sharing, fuller transparency will not be part of the deal.

      • Alex

        Teams were making more money than ever while spending less and less money on players before the pandemic . The hedge fund era of baseball ownership is here. Sucking the life out of an industry on its way out.

        All this discussion of risk. Seems to be less and less risk all the time owning a team. Taxpayers fund the stadium you keep all the money on. And you can own a team for 11 seasons, have 8 losing seasons, and more than quadruple your investment. AND if your Mike brown you didn’t even buy the team hahaha. Risky.

      • Doug Gray

        Vulture Capitalists. Almost all of ’em.

  3. CallowayPost

    “Hello, workers (players)…due to reasons we won’t prove to you, management (owners) will no longer be able to honor your full contracts. However, when we do turn the lines back on, we’re gonna need you to only come in on a part time salary, work unpaid overtime, just to get our product out to the people by Christmas time. Believe us, we are agreeing to turn the machines back on for your sake…we would be better financially if we brought you back at the last second and worked you closer to the holidays as those when our profits really soar! While we can’t comment on it, even though it’s public knowledge…yes, we are one of the most profitable businesses in the country, but we leveraged that profit in a diverse portfolio. We also betted that our ROI would keep increasing, so in order to keep the shareholders happy, we’ve borrowed against future revenue to pay your salaries…so as you can see…it’s mostly your fault for demanding top dollar for your services. But our financials are our business, not yours, so don’t even ask about us proving it. Besides, even though you’ll be the ones taking time away from your families, with the health risks involved, that’s not our problem, it’s yours, so stop being selfish, and let’s make the shareholders happy!

    Ownership would also like to thank you for being responsible for the direct growth of our industry, but at the same time, be paid for the uniforms, and without us, you wouldn’t have jobs in the first place.

    Please don’t question our motives, they’re pure, we promise. The fact that the owners have not skipped a dime on their own payouts should not concern you, because they demand their promised compensation for their unique skills.

    Just take our offer and move on…you know you love your job and working, so it’s in your best interest!

    Half-heartedly,

    Lawyer for group of unwavering sycophants

  4. ClevelandRedsFan

    @BK, this is the fundamental problem of the MLB. MLB and MLBPA aren’t in it together to grow the game’s popularity and revenues. Both sides are too obsessed with “winning” the CBA, even if that means losing the fans.

    They need to strongly consider other sports’ models.

    Also FWIW, umpires saw the exact same books the players did and agreed to take about a 30% pay cut. They thought that was fair based on the economic situation. They also settled quickly. MLB is asking players to take even less than that. The opening of the books is a meaningless argument to anyone who wasn’t actually on the negotiation calls. We have no clue what MLB actually showed players.