Hall of Fame pitcher and Fox’s lead analyst John Smoltz has been a noted critic of the way baseball is currently being played. While he has addressed issues such as the shift, launch angle, strikeouts, and the like on the air, he has not truly addressed issues like competitive balance.
On the subject of competitive balances, Smoltz would tell Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the solution may ultimately be to create a split season.
Certainly, that concept would be music to Mets fans ears. While the team’s postseason dreams were tanked due to a 5-21 June, the Mets would still have had a shot at the postseason due to their 31-27 record being just one game behind the Braves record with 10 games to play.
This would have meant instead of trading Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia, the Mets may have been in a position to add pieces and make another go at with a rotation featuring Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard. That is the crux of Smoltz’s idea:
Teams can now compete in the second half instead of just dumping everybody. How are you going to tell your fan base that you’re not going to try in the second half? Who says you can’t have a nice second half? You could see teams reconstructed and change philosophically.
Certainly, there would be renewed hope for teams and fanbases like the Mets. However, there are some issues and gaps which would need to be ironed out in order to even implement this format.
In the event the same team wins the division in both halves, Smoltz proposes that team receive a first round bye. Also, with Major League Baseball’s season already spanning the end of March to the end of October, there would need to be time carved out for an extra postseason round. On that front, Smoltz suggests reducing the schedule to 154 games.
In addition to the amount of games, Smoltz believes the format of the schedule needs to be amended. Smoltz’s plan was simply and perfectly summed up as, “Don’t play interleague leagues. Don’t choose rivalries. Don’t manipulate the schedule. Just play everyone the same.”
No plan is perfect, and as baseball historians are well aware, this one is far from it. There was one time in Major League history with a split season, and that season exposes the inherent flaw in the system.
Due to the 1981 player’s strike, Major League Baseball instituted the exact postseason format suggested by Smoltz. Due to the format, the Cincinnati Reds, the team who had the best record in all of baseball, missed the postseason because they did not lead the division in the first or second half.
Certainly, there are a number of issues which need to be ironed out before Major League Baseball even begins to contemplate such a radical change. It’s very likely this does not go past the drawing board stage, which is fine to Smoltz because he just wants to “give us something to think about” because ultimately he believes there are any number of “weaknesses and flaws in the game.”
Smoltz also proposed other changes including banning shifts, eliminate interleague play and limit bullpen usage.