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Rob Manfred Suggests 154-Game Schedule. Wait, What?

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The new commissioner has another idea. Would it work?

Al Yellon

Rob Manfred walked back his "ban defensive shifts" suggestion at Monday's news conference in Phoenix, saying he was happy it had created a "dialogue" that was "extraordinarily instructive."

Perhaps we need to be extraordinarily instructive to Manfred regarding another suggestion he made to ESPN.com regarding possibly shortening the season to 154 games:

"I don't think length of season is a topic that can't ever be discussed," Manfred told ESPN.com. "I don't think it would be impossible to go back to 154 [games]."

Manfred said discussion of season length is not at the top of his mind, adding that insiders he talks to don't think having a season of 162 games is something that needs to be dealt with anytime soon.

I understand why this is even a thing, though it shouldn't be. This Wall Street Journal article discusses fatigue as a major issue in modern baseball and some of the reasons why it's happening:

Baseball’s season has always been the longest among major team sports, in terms of games played. But two developments over the last decade have hastened the decline of the everyday baseball player.

One was the ban on amphetamines that took effect in 2006. The use of such stimulants was an open secret in baseball for decades.

"There used to be a phrase in baseball: Never go out there alone," said former major-league pitcher Ron Darling. "That referred to amphetamines. It was an elixir or a friend that could take away all those insecurities you had from being fatigued."

The second and more recent change that has affected hitters has been the proliferation of dominant, hard-throwing pitchers. The number of pitchers whose fastball velocity averages 95 mph or more is nearly double what it was in 2009, according to the statistical website FanGraphs.

Obviously, no one's suggesting a return of amphetamines to baseball. The WSJ article notes that teams are going to "more flexible rosters," something Cubs manager Joe Maddon has also mentioned he'd like the Cubs to see and something he did quite often as manager of the Rays. Just two 2014 Rays -- James Loney and Evan Longoria -- played in 150 or more games and Maddon used two players (Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez) at five or more positions.

There are many other ways to deal with the fatigue issue. Perhaps eventually, MLB will allow expanded rosters, to 26 or 27 players, to help ease this crunch and get managers extra bench players (hopefully, teams wouldn't use that to simply put more bullpen specialists on the roster). Or teams could be allowed to have what amounts to a taxi squad; maybe you'd have a 30-man roster where you'd have 25 active for each game (again, you'd have to have rules so that teams didn't use this simply to deactivate the starting pitchers not used, since the point would be resting position players).

As you can see, there are quite a number of methods in which baseball could reduce late-season fatigue among players -- a real issue -- without cutting eight games off the schedule, something that would mess with record books. Granted, MLB had a 154-game season for decades, but the 162-game season has now existed for just about as long (this will be its 55th season in the American League, 54th in the National) as the 154-game season (1904-60 in the AL, or 57 seasons; 1904-61 in the NL, or 58 seasons).

Combine that with asking owners to give up four home dates and I suspect this idea is a non-starter.