After making the foolish promise to up the output from a blogging perspective, the Defensive Specialist has been pacing back and forth in front of the Deep in the Hole super computer desperately trying to come up with decent ideas to waffle on about. Mired in the dead of winter is not helping the creative juices flow and the Defensive Specialist fights a daily battle against the urge to comfort eat. Fortunately Tuesday saw a breakthrough with the genius idea to talk about the 2011/2012 schedule!
Before you click off the page in disgust, remember the Defensive Specialist also committed to shorter posts (in order to avoid repetitive strain injury after a lengthy lay off). So even if it’s a crappy topic, you’ll only have to endure 500-750 words on the matter as opposed to the usual 1500-2000. That’s a win win right?
The biggest change from last season is the addition of 6 more games, increasing from 40 games (20 home / 20 away) to 46 (23 home / 23 away). Regular readers of this fine, upstanding site will know that the Defensive Specialist has long championed the idea of playing more games. For those disinclined to read through the archives to find these well-written gems and in order to pad the word count, let your old pal quickly rehash the topic.
If Major League Baseball wants to run an offseason league that’s taken seriously by its franchises then it has to offer more games. The reason? MLB teams who want their prospects to play offseason baseball are looking for 3 things: 1) quality competition, 2) quality standard of living and environment and 3) volume. We all know that you get better at baseball by playing it a lot (hence the 162 game MLB schedule). Teams want to get games into their prospects against solid competition. The more games they play (particularly offensive players who don’t need to rest their arms as pitchers do), the greater the benefit. There is a huge advantage to Australian professional players as well as they now have a legitimate offseason league to continue their development in. Think back a couple of years when an Australian kid’s offseason program included club ball and a week long Claxton Shield tournament. Now compare that to a 46 game season with games running 5 days a week!
So this new schedule is a good thing right?
Yes and no.
Obviously from a players perspective it’s a great thing. As outlined above, playing every day is only going to ratchet up the development time and skills of all players involved. It’s going to expose Australian youngsters to good baseball and allow our professional players to hone their talents. From an imports perspective, they get to continue their growth in Australia during summer while drinking better beer.
So what’s the downside you ask? Well there are a couple of issues the Defensive Specialist sees:
- Firstly, playing more games actually impacts the ability of both non-professionals and professionals to hold down regular jobs. We all know that minor leaguers are not paid any sort of princely sum and require off-season work to survive. We also had a decent level of non-professionals / amateurs taking part in the league last year who work first and play baseball second. With games now taking place on Wednesdays, players are effectively only able to work 2 days per week (when on the road). There aren’t many gigs around that A) support working 2 days per week and B) pay enough. What we’re likely to see is the number of mature non-professionals / amateurs decline and an increase in younger players (bankrolled by mum and dad!) and non-professional imports (sponsored by local clubs).
- The effect of extended series on crowd support. When contacted by the Sydney Blue Sox to continue membership, one of the selling points to re-up was the addition of games. “Instead of 4 games per series, you get 5!!” went the spiel. That looks good on paper until you consider the thought of attending 5 games a week from Wednesday to Sunday. In fact attending that many games in a week would lead to divorce papers, which wouldn’t look so good. Obviously most people wont be attending all 5 games in a series unless they have a child or loved one playing so the effect on crowd numbers will be interesting to study. Will more games allow fans greater accessibility and options or lead to apathy? You know what they say -increasing supply decreases demand.
- From a revenue perspective, franchises will be expected to give fans and supporters a great show no matter the day of the week. You’d expect numbers to suffer on Wednesday and Thursday nights which means that the bottom line may hurt as teams aren’t pulling $$$ from concessions, alcohol, parking and the gate. Teams can’t afford to cut back on the bells and whistles on Wednesday and Thursday because they cant afford to give fans a reason (other than the night of the week) to not show up.
The Defensive Specialist has blown out his target of 500-750 words and is starting to cramp up. At the end of the day, more baseball games is a good thing for the players involved and for the perception of the league. It’s the hard to measure things that bare watching as the season progresses.