Why Are There So Many Games in an MLB Season? A Historical and Modern Look

Pat Bloom

Why Are There So Many Games In An MLB Baseball Season

Ever wondered why Major League Baseball (MLB) teams play a staggering 162 games each season? It’s not just about tradition; there’s a method to the madness.

This extensive schedule helps balance the competition, ensuring that the best teams rise to the top by the end of the season.

The sheer number of games also allows for various special events and traditions, like the Washington Nationals’ Fourth of July games and the Boston Red Sox’s Patriots Day games, which start at 11 am to coincide with local events.

Moreover, having a packed schedule means more opportunities for fans to catch their favorite teams in action, creating a rich and engaged community around the sport.

Historical Context of MLB Game Count

The historical context of Major League Baseball (MLB) game counts has evolved significantly over time, shaped by various factors including league expansions, scheduling changes, and economic considerations.

Here’s a brief overview:

Early Beginnings and League Formation

In Major League Baseball’s early years, the number of games played was significantly fewer. When the National League (NL) was established in 1876, teams played just 70 games each season.

The American League (AL) later formed in 1901 with similar schedules. By the early 20th century, seasons grew longer. Both leagues settled on a 154-game schedule by 1920, which remained in place for several decades.

However, in 1961, the American League expanded its schedule to 162 games, followed by the National League in 1962.

This change accommodated league expansion and sought to provide more opportunities for teams to compete, enhancing fan engagement and ensuring a more comprehensive determination of the best teams.

Today, the 162-game schedule remains a cornerstone of MLB, reflecting the sport’s commitment to a rigorous and balanced competition format.

Expansion of Leagues and Teams

Franchise shifts and league expansions significantly impacted the MLB game schedule. In 1953, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee, initiating major realignment.

Expansion in the 1960s, where the AL expanded in 1961 and the NL followed in 1962, introduced the more extensive 162-game schedule. By 1969, the two leagues each had 12 teams and adopted a 162-game schedule.

Teams played 18 games against five opponents and 12 games against six others in a two-division format. This schedule balanced competition and fostered league integrity.

Impact of Labor Disputes and Scheduling Adjustments

Labor disputes also played a role in the number of games. The 1972 player strike led to the cancellation of 86 games, resulting in teams playing between 153-156 games.

This uneven schedule notably impacted the AL Eastern Division; Detroit won the title by just half a game over Boston. These disruptions underline the complexity and negotiation involved in maintaining consistent schedules across the league.

Labor disputes also played a role in the number of games. The 1972 player strike led to the cancellation of 86 games, resulting in teams playing between 153-156 games.

This uneven schedule notably impacted the AL Eastern Division; Detroit won the title by just half a game over Boston. These disruptions underline the complexity and negotiation involved in maintaining consistent schedules across the league.

Ultimately, the 162-game schedule is designed to balance competition, weather, fan engagement, and logistical concerns, ensuring a thorough evaluation of each team’s performance.

Financial Considerations and Attempts to Increase Games

Owners have occasionally attempted to further expand the schedule for financial gain. In 1946, both leagues voted to increase to 168 games, aiming for higher revenue.

However, backlash from players and media led to scrapping this plan before implementation. Short-lived attempts highlighted the balance needed between generating income and maintaining player and fan satisfaction.

The current 162-game season provides ample opportunities for teams to prove their merit over a long stretch, reducing luck’s impact and emphasizing skill and strategy.

This extensive schedule fosters strong team rivalries and engages fans for much of the year, contributing to MLB’s enduring popularity.

Analyzing the 162-Game Season

The 162-game season in Major League Baseball (MLB) has become a cornerstone of the sport’s structure, influencing various aspects of the game including player performance, team strategies, fan engagement, and economic considerations.

Here’s an analysis of the significance and impact of the 162-game season:

The Impact of Television and Revenue

Television deals and revenue streams significantly influence the 162-game MLB season. Teams earn substantial income from broadcasting rights, as networks pay premiums to cover more games. This translates to higher advertising revenue for broadcasters and increased visibility for teams.

Additionally, more home games boost ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise income, contributing to a team’s overall revenue.

The more games on schedule, the greater the financial gains for both teams and television partners. In essence, the length of the season maximizes profit potential across multiple channels.

Player Performance and Season Dynamics

Player performance evolves uniquely across a lengthy season. A 162-game schedule allows for slumps and hot streaks, making the final standings more representative of a team’s overall talent. Teams have the opportunity to recover from poor starts, offering a balanced competition landscape.

Moreover, a longer season impacts player conditioning and stamina. Managers must strategize around off days and player rotation to maintain peak performance, especially during the postseason push.

The extended schedule also places emphasis on depth and durability within a roster, testing the resilience of both players and teams.

Challenges of the Current MLB Schedule

The current Major League Baseball (MLB) schedule, consisting of a 162-game season, presents several challenges that impact players, teams, fans, and the overall league dynamics.

Here’s an analysis of some of the significant challenges associated with the current MLB schedule:

Cold-Weather Games and Player Health

Cold-weather games pose significant challenges for MLB players. When the season starts in early April, many northern cities experience low temperatures.

These conditions increase the risk of injuries, such as muscle strains and joint issues, impacting player performance and longevity.

For example, pitchers may struggle to maintain grip on the ball due to cold, affecting their control and effectiveness.

Teams often make strategic decisions, like scheduling fewer games in colder areas early in the season, to mitigate these risks.

The Logistics of Travel and Breaks

Travel logistics present a major challenge in the MLB schedule. With 30 teams spread across different time zones, extensive travel can lead to player fatigue and impact overall performance.

For instance, teams traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast face significant time zone changes, disrupting players’ sleep cycles.

Coordinating off days and series road trips become essential to manage fatigue. Despite scheduling efforts, mid-season fatigue remains a common issue, influencing team strategies and player rotations.

Recent Changes and Adaptations

In recent years, Major League Baseball (MLB) has implemented several changes and adaptations aimed at addressing various challenges and enhancing the overall fan experience.

Here’s an analysis of some notable recent changes:

Adjustments During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted significant changes to the MLB schedule. In 2020, the regular season was reduced to 60 games to accommodate health protocols and minimize travel.

This condensation aimed to complete the season within a tighter timeframe while maintaining player safety.

Teams had to adapt quickly to a truncated schedule where each game carried more weight. Off-field protocols, including regular testing and quarantine measures, further altered traditional routines.

Potential Future Modifications

Future modifications to the MLB schedule may consider various factors. Proposals to shorten the season to around 154 games have resurfaced, aimed at reducing player fatigue and improving overall quality of play.

Innovations in scheduling may include dynamic adjustments based on team performance, ensuring competitive balance throughout the season.

Potential expansions of the postseason might alter the regular season’s length, emphasizing the importance of strategic planning for clubs.

Adaptations in response to climate concerns and travel logistics are also under discussion to enhance player welfare and maintain high-performance standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the MLB season extended to 162 games?

In 1961 and 1962, the MLB extended the season to 162 games for the American League and National League, respectively, to accommodate league expansion.

How has television influenced the 162-game MLB season?

Television has significantly impacted the 162-game season by generating substantial revenue for teams and networks.

What are the challenges of a 162-game MLB season?

The lengthy schedule poses challenges such as cold-weather games affecting player health, travel logistics causing fatigue, and requiring greater roster depth to maintain team performance.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the MLB season?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLB adapted by reducing the 2020 season to 60 games to prioritize player safety and comply with health guidelines.


The evolution of the MLB season reflects a complex interplay of history, economics, and player welfare. While the 162-game schedule offers substantial financial benefits, it also presents significant challenges.

The league’s ability to adapt, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests a willingness to evolve further. Future changes might balance tradition with modern demands, ensuring the sport remains competitive and enjoyable for both players and fans.

Moreover, expanding viewership through streaming services and international games highlights MLB’s commitment to accessibility.

This adaptability ensures baseball’s enduring appeal across generations. Furthermore, the extended season provides ample opportunities for player development and team strategy exploration.

By accommodating a wide range of skill levels and tactical experiments, the MLB fosters a dynamic and engaging environment. This continual adaptation and innovation contribute to the league’s long-term success and popularity.

As the sport evolves, maintaining a delicate balance between tradition and modernization will be crucial for its sustained growth and relevance.

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Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

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