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OTM Roundtable: How many games do we need?

It’s not going to be a full season, but how many do we need for a semi-acceptable season?

World Baseball Classic - Championship Round - Game 3 - USA v Puerto Rico

We’re taking a brief respite from our draft coverage this afternoon to go back to everyone’s favorite topic for this week’s roundtable: The negotiations between players and owners for a potential 2020 season. Nothing has really changed in months on this front with the two sides basically talking over each other at this point. It seems impossible that there won’t be baseball of any sort this year, but it looks increasingly likely that it will be a 48-game season, which is obviously much lower than we’re used to. So, I was curious what people thought about season length in this context, leading me to this week’s roundtable question: What’s the fewest number of games the season could be that you would still take the results at least somewhat seriously?

Jake Kostik

At this point, I don’t think there’s a number of games that would make me take this season seriously. Pandemic aside, we’ve seen what I feel are pretty ugly negotiations just to get back on the field. There was a time where I would have been satisfied with an 82-game season, but now I don’t think even that would appease me since it would have to come with massive concessions from the player base, and as I side with the players in this fight, that would not make me happy.

I feel like when we missed the July 4 window was the time where my attitude became “just skip the season”. Whitey Herzog once said you would win 50 games, and lose 50 games no matter what. It was the remaining games that would be in the air. While he said this when speaking about how a manager impacts a dozen or so games with his strategy, I think it also applies here. In a limited season, there will be too much variance, for the season to be valid and as respected as other, fuller seasons.

It sounds like we are looking at a maximum of 50 games now, and I am not interested in that short of a campaign. Fully on team “cancel the season” and put all efforts to making sure baseball is played in 2021.

Michael Walsh

The fewest number of games I’m willing to take seriously is in the 80’s range. This whole process has been incredibly frustrating; the MLBPA proposals of 114 games and now 89 games seemed perfectly reasonable, but neither appear remotely possible. The most probable outcome is likely a 50 or 60 game season, which, while potentially exciting, will certainly have a major asterisk next to it. For reference, the World Champion Washington Nationals were 19-31 through the first 50 games of last season, good for the 4th worst record in all of baseball. It’s amazing to me how a 50 game season could make the reigning World Series Champs look like a “tank” candidate. 80+ games will drive up the sample size and at least give teams a slight leeway for slow starts.

Jake Devereaux

I hate this question so much. I also hate that we are having to discuss this right now instead of actual baseball. I think 82 games is ideal for a shortened season. However at this juncture it is probably impossible. No matter what happens the way that rosters are used will not resemble a normal year. Baseball will be fundamentally altered this season and we need to live with that and enjoy what we get for what it is. At this point anything we get will be welcome, but I couldn’t be much more disappointed in how this whole thing has played out. I blame the owners for 99 percent of these issues.

Shelly Verougstraete

For me, I don’t care how many games are played. Yes, this season is going to be looked at differently but the champion is still the champion. What I would like to see though, is a NCAA Baseball or Basketball type tournament. Let’s get weird and have fun. We all need it this year.

Mike Carlucci

122 games. I started to do some work on researching previous seasons and looking at trends, but at the end I’m going to just say three-quarters of a season. If there was an emergency with a large enough scope to cancel baseball nation-wide for a multi-week period, and it didn’t have being highly contagious as a factor, I think we could all celebrate a season at 75%. It wouldn’t be a full season, but it would largely resemble one. This is especially true for the 40-man roster September seasons. September is traditionally a little different.

For 2020, whether it’s 50 games or 100 games it won’t ever feel like a real season without fans. Obviously, any games MLB gets in during this year are gifts - fans or not.

Keaton DeRocher

Somewhere around 80 games, plus or minus a few, is the mark for me. It seems like we may be trickling towards that in current negotiations but at the same time we’re also running out of time to get to that mark so that may be wishful thinking. There’s so much nuance to a full season it will be almost impossible to get that from a shortened season but 80ish games might be able to give us some of that. Last season it took the Nationals a long time to be in the playoff picture and too short of a season you deny teams to really become themselves. 80 games may not be enough but it’s enough for me to be at least satisfied.

Bryan Joiner

This is a tough one to answer for me because I don’t think it really matters how many games they play. 48 games seems like an insanely small number, but then again so does, like, 69, to randomly choose another. Maybe anything 60 or over works for me, but the important thing is who plays in the playoffs. If the league pushes forward the 48-game plan and ends up with the Yankees and the Dodgers in the World Series, no one will care. If the league pushes the same plan and it ends up as A’s/Rockies, it will be a joke. Far more than then number of games played, then, will be the playoff system, and how well it rewards teams we recognize as good versus those we’d classify as “lucky,” and that’s not something you can really plan for. The best you can do is throw something out there and hope it works. The more games the better, but the ends will define the means no matter what else happens.

Matt Collins

Put me in the camp of the season needing to be at least 81 games for me to feel like it’s “real.” That’s not to say the championship won’t count or anything because everyone was playing under the same rules, but it’ll certainly be remembered in a different light. I really want to see baseball this year, partially because I like watching baseball and also partially because a portion of my income relies on it being a thing that exists. That said, if they’re going to play 48 games just do a World Cup style tournament. I know baseball is allergic to major shifts, but if you’re already going to be doing something that people, rightly or wrongly, will look at as illegitimate, at least make it cool.