Noah Syndergaard unwittingly made the case as to why MLB needs to revamp its schedule for the regular and postseason, which is too much of a crapshoot…
Noah Syndergaard most would agree, is one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. He sports a 3.12 ERA and a .622 winning percentage over five years in the big leagues. But like any pitcher, even those in the Baseball Hall Of Fame, Syndergaard can come up a real stinker.
That fate proved to be Syndergaard’s last night when he faced off against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. His start followed a loss to the Cubs the previous night, and Syndergaard was supposed to be the bridge to Jacob deGrom that would enable the Mets to take the series, two games to one.
If you didn’t see it, you probably wouldn’t believe it. But, when was the last time Syndergaard surrendered nine runs over three innings, including six in the first inning when the Cubs sent eleven men to the plate. The answer, never.
Anyone Can Have A Bad Day
And yet, it happened. We forget, though, that Sandy Koufax lost 87 times in his illustrious career. Warren Spahn, the winningest left-hander in major league history (363), also lost 245 games. Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, was blasted for seven runs and eleven hits in only 5.1 innings in a game this year.
Consider that both Syndergaard’s and Scherzer’s stinkers came during the regular season when there’s always another game to play. Even with the loss to Cubs, the Mets still have a fighting chance, for instance, to overcome Chicago for the final Wild Card spot in the National League.
But what if Syndergaard’s came in the NLDS, a best of five series? The Mets would then be facing a 2-0 deficit and the need to win three straight against their opponent. A highly unlikely possibility, even though the Mets have scrapped through 162 games to earn the level they achieved.
All of which sparks me to argue for a revamped regular and postseason schedule. Make the schedule one that calls for fewer regular-season games and more postseason games. This is not a novel proposal. Shortening of the regular season has been argued for here, here by Bob Costas, and another by Jason Stark in The Athletic.
But the overweighing idea is the postseason series are too short. So unless we want to be playing baseball in December or February, the only way to lengthen the postseason is to shorten the regular season.
The Postseason And No Chance For Redemption
Not quite as bad as the NFL where it’s one and done, the postseason in baseball is still a crapshoot. Syndergaard’s game is a microcosm of what can happen in a single instant when everything is on the line. And there is no tomorrow.
In a five-game NLDS, Syndergaard and Scherzer would be one and done, with no chance to redeem themselves. Lengthen the series to seven games, and they get that opportunity. Similarly, the League Championship Series and World Series should be made best of nine.
In all, the major league schedule is increased by six measly games. Can MLB legitimately argue they can’t reduce the regular season by six measly games?
Money Be Damned – What’s Good For Baseball?
The anti-sentiment for reducing the number of regular-season games is predictable. Think $$$$.
Commissioner Rob Manfred says fewer games means less money would be paid to players (for less “work”). Are you kidding me? And then there’s the argument that fewer games in their home park would decrease a team’s revenue. Three games make that much a difference to the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins, both of whom regularly draw crowds of 7,000 or 8,000?
With the postseason on the way, it’s a timely subject to consider. Noah Syndergaard will retake the mound on Monday. And the fifth day after that. Chances are he’ll be vintage Syndergaard in both games.
Why shouldn’t Syndergaard and the Mets, or any team in a similar situation, have that opportunity in the playoffs as well? It not only makes sense, but it’s also fair.