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Drungo's Thought Experiment of the Day


DrungoHazewood

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What would baseball look like if they'd adopted something like a football schedule 120 years ago?

Let's say that in 1880 they decided to switch out the pitcher's box with a mound and pitcher's rubber, and they switched from underhanded to overhanded pitching all at once. Big, radical change in one year. Pitchers start getting hurt all over the place. The game is already on shaky financial ground, and nobody is sure if any sport can be a successful commercial venture.

So the powers-that-be try a radical solution - they only play baseball games on Saturdays. No Sunday games because of the blue laws, no night games because the technology isn't there.

Teams start packing their parks for these games. It's the old supply and demand thing we see in football - fewer games, but most of them are sold out.

By the time the AL becomes a major league in 1901 a 25-game schedule is standard. In the 1940s they add a few midweek night games and end up with a soccer-like schedule of 35 or 40 games.

The question is: what does baseball look like? What changes are there? What do the records look like?

A few of my guesses:

1. Teams only carry 2-3 pitchers. The ace does 75% or more of the pitching.

2. Pitching injuries aren't any higher than any other position.

3. Rosters stabilize at around 15 players.

4. Runs scored still varies by era, but in general is more pitching-dominated.

5. There are more 20-game winners than today, and 300-game winners still happen occasionally. But there are also good pitchers who go 4-17 with a 3.25 ERA. You're almost always facing the other team's ace.

6. The save record is in the single digits.

7. The single season home run record is about 15, and the career record is about 300.

8. On average careers last longer because of less wear and tear. Catchers benefit greatly.

9. Playoffs, if they exist, are single elimination tournaments.

10. The majors have many more teams. In the 1940s-50s baseball expands greatly (or other leagues spring up) because of the surplus of players due to the smaller rosters.

11. Because of the small sample size phenomenon there are some crazy records, like people will bat .445. Or have an ERA of 0.45. The whole season will be like looking at current records from April.

12. There would be teams that go undefeated, or very close. And teams that go winless, or very close.

13. Ballparks would be much larger (in capacity).

14. Salaries would be similar.

15. Small market teams are more competitive because one ace pitcher can completely level the playing field.

What else?

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What would baseball look like if they'd adopted something like a football schedule 120 years ago?

Let's say that in 1880 they decided to switch out the pitcher's box with a mound and pitcher's rubber, and they switched from underhanded to overhanded pitching all at once. Big, radical change in one year. Pitchers start getting hurt all over the place. The game is already on shaky financial ground, and nobody is sure if any sport can be a successful commercial venture.

So the powers-that-be try a radical solution - they only play baseball games on Saturdays. No Sunday games because of the blue laws, no night games because the technology isn't there.

Teams start packing their parks for these games. It's the old supply and demand thing we see in football - fewer games, but most of them are sold out.

By the time the AL becomes a major league in 1901 a 25-game schedule is standard. In the 1940s they add a few midweek night games and end up with a soccer-like schedule of 35 or 40 games.

The question is: what does baseball look like? What changes are there? What do the records look like?

A few of my guesses:

1. Teams only carry 2-3 pitchers. The ace does 75% or more of the pitching.

2. Pitching injuries aren't any higher than any other position.

3. Rosters stabilize at around 15 players.

4. Runs scored still varies by era, but in general is more pitching-dominated.

5. There are more 20-game winners than today, and 300-game winners still happen occasionally. But there are also good pitchers who go 4-17 with a 3.25 ERA. You're almost always facing the other team's ace.

6. The save record is in the single digits.

7. The single season home run record is about 15, and the career record is about 300.

8. On average careers last longer because of less wear and tear. Catchers benefit greatly.

9. Playoffs, if they exist, are single elimination tournaments.

10. The majors have many more teams. In the 1940s-50s baseball expands greatly (or other leagues spring up) because of the surplus of players due to the smaller rosters.

11. Because of the small sample size phenomenon there are some crazy records, like people will bat .445. Or have an ERA of 0.45. The whole season will be like looking at current records from April.

12. There would be teams that go undefeated, or very close. And teams that go winless, or very close.

13. Ballparks would be much larger (in capacity).

14. Salaries would be similar.

15. Small market teams are more competitive because one ace pitcher can completely level the playing field.

What else?

Player evaluation would be considerably more difficult. Salaries would be less because the reserve clause would not have been broken until the 80s or so because playing once or twice a week would mean that you would hold another job. Players would not have been devoting months to the sport as their sole income. Also due to this, the game would have had fewer great performances because time would not have been given to practice and repetition. WWI and WWII would have affected games much more than they did because a hiatus from a once a week sport would not have been considered to damaging. The sport would have had less involvement with good sports writing because stories would have to be strung out over the week. Almost daily games allows for more coverage and more of a presence in print media and later on TV. Basically, football did not become viable until the 70s. Baseball would have been in the same boat. There would have been much more competition between new leagues taking advantage of games not played on certain days.

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Salaries would be less because the reserve clause would not have been broken until the 80s or so because playing once or twice a week would mean that you would hold another job. Players would not have been devoting months to the sport as their sole income.

There would have been much more competition between new leagues taking advantage of games not played on certain days.

I don't know... did football players hold other jobs in the 60s and 70s? The NFL didn't have free agency until the late 80s.

Also, if there were other leagues the reserve clause would be a moot point. Stopping you from signing with someone else only holds water if you control all of the players and all of the teams (or almost all). It's possible that the existence of other leagues could have led to free agency much earlier, like the 30s or the 50s.

Also due to this, the game would have had fewer great performances because time would not have been given to practice and repetition.

But that would be the case with everyone, so it would still be an even playing field. Football had great performances early on.

I believe that the combination of more difficult scouting, the possibility of fewer practices, more rest, and short schedules/small samples would lead to more extreme performances than we see today. You'd have some players with homers in 50% of their team's games, teams winning 90% or more of their games, pitchers averaging 17 strikeouts a start, players hitting nearly .500, things like that.

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I don't know... did football players hold other jobs in the 60s and 70s? The NFL didn't have free agency until the late 80s.

Also, if there were other leagues the reserve clause would be a moot point. Stopping you from signing with someone else only holds water if you control all of the players and all of the teams (or almost all). It's possible that the existence of other leagues could have led to free agency much earlier, like the 30s or the 50s.

But that would be the case with everyone, so it would still be an even playing field. Football had great performances early on.

I believe that the combination of more difficult scouting, the possibility of fewer practices, more rest, and short schedules/small samples would lead to more extreme performances than we see today. You'd have some players with homers in 50% of their team's games, teams winning 90% or more of their games, pitchers averaging 17 strikeouts a start, players hitting nearly .500, things like that.

Well, a major difference is that there is more game planning in football, so players got offseason jobs. Baseball players do not have to be at the facility every single day. I don't think they would be.

Right, there would be more extreme performances, which would be somewhat sad.

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Well, a major difference is that there is more game planning in football, so players got offseason jobs. Baseball players do not have to be at the facility every single day. I don't think they would be.

Right, there would be more extreme performances, which would be somewhat sad.

Why would that be sad? If baseball had this schedule since 1900 that's all you'd ever have known.

I think that as baseball got more competitive and focused as time went on you'd see players more and more devoted to the game. At some point everyone would be at the park every day. Up until the 1970s it was common for players to sit around eating Cheetos from November until February, but as the game evolved very few can get away with that today. I don't think a short schedule would override the ambition to get ahead, win more games, and make more money.

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Why would that be sad? If baseball had this schedule since 1900 that's all you'd ever have known.

If antibiotics were never discovered and utilized . . . I think that would be sad. A lot of prime baseball would never have been played. Anyway, I think baseball would not have taken over America without the long schedule. It became ingrained in large reason because of it. It would not be as large in popularity as it would have been probably just as peripheral as football and the NBA were. Of course, it is easier to play those sports when you are short on people or equipment.

To assume there would be interest in baseball just because there is currently interest in baseball is a failed assumption, in my opinion.

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Drungo how much free time do you have?

Don't you ever stand on the table in the corner just to see strange things look from that perspective? I always have stuff like this knocking around in my brain. Sometimes it has to come out and mingle with the brains of normal people. Hopefully it inspires them to start looking at things upside down and backwards, too.

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I think it would be awful. It would turn into the NFL (which isn't a bad thing -- for the NFL). Stadiums would be huge because teams could sell out games each week. Stadiums would lose their individual appeal because they would all be mega-stadiums.

We'd see coverage of the games a lot more on Saturdays. Saturdays in September would be very interesting with college football going and pennant races going on.

It also wouldn't be too terribly practical. What do you do about rain delays?

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Anyway, I think baseball would not have taken over America without the long schedule. It became ingrained in large reason because of it. It would not be as large in popularity as it would have been probably just as peripheral as football and the NBA were. Of course, it is easier to play those sports when you are short on people or equipment.

To assume there would be interest in baseball just because there is currently interest in baseball is a failed assumption, in my opinion.

Just off the top of my head I think baseball took over America because:

a) it was first

b) it quickly became "American"

As early as the 1850s people were calling baseball our national pastime. That was 50 years before the Mills Commission declared baseball a sport of, by, and for Americans.

It was basically the first professional sport by the 1860s. From 1871 until about 1885 teams played 30-80 game schedules. Long, every day schedules (at least league schedules) didn't come about until the late 1880s.

If you want to see an example of a league that played very short schedules spread over many months look at the National Association. In '71 Long Levi Meyerle led the league with a .492 batting average, going 64-for-130.

I think baseball would have been just as popular had the schedule been 40 games from the 1880s on.

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I don't know. They'd probably wait a long time before calling it off, then reschedule the game for mid-week.

Or maybe they'd have an off week or two built into the schedule for makeup games.

My thought was that every team would play in a dome through like the late 80s, before Toronto invented the retractable roof, bringing outdoor baseball back for the first time since the pre Astrodome era.

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Drungo how much free time do you have?

Really, the funniest thing in this whole thread is this comment. Mainly because it's gurgi looking at Jon like he's a nutbag from planet crazy and the rest of going, "You know, gurgi has a point." :D

I kid, I kid, Jon!!

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