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Morning Mound Visit: A shortened season is what the owners always wanted

If the billionaires wanted a full season of baseball, they would have gotten it.

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MLB: JAN 28 MLB Lockout Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It has become clear that the owner’s endgame was always to shorten the season. According to this piece by Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic, teams don’t have to start issuing rebates to local television networks until about 25 games. They may be missing out on the gate and whatever revenue comes in from actually fulfilling their purpose and holding baseball games, but April is a month of lower attendance and lower revenues.

Jason Heyward took to Instagram to say that the owners “view the first month of the season as debt.” He also said that the owners have calculated the number of games they need to turn a profit and have lopped off the rest as unnecessary. Because what purpose could baseball have if it isn’t making the worst people imaginable money?

Over the long term, it sure seems like shortening the season permanently is the owner’s endgame. The owners have insisted on expanding the playoffs for several reasons and none of them are related to competitive integrity. An expanded playoff field not only sweetens the pot for network deals, but it decreases the need to field a highly competitive team. With 14 teams in the playoffs, nearly every .500 ballclub will punch a ticket to October.

Moreover, such a large postseason pool removes the necessity for baseball to have such a long season. A longer playoff tournament coupled with an arbitrary regular season paves the way to shorten the regular season.

The owners held off on playing for as long as they could in 2020, not because of moral considerations of playing in a deadly pandemic without a vaccine, but because of operating costs. They tried to shorten the season in 2021, and they succeeded in 2022. Why wouldn’t these opportunists try to make the change permanently eventually?

Ben Clemens | FanGraphs: At least a week of the season has been lost and more is in jeopardy. If those two series are to be the only ones canceled, a new deal will have to be made in short order. The two sides are far apart on several key issues, but just how far apart are they?

Russell Carleton | Baseball Prospectus: Bunting against the shift seems like solid strategy. If the opponent is giving up one half of the infield, why not take the free single? Well, because free singles aren’t free. That, and bunting against the shift was less effective in 2020 and 2021.