Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

Baffoe: It Won't Happen, But Cubs' Anthony Rizzo Is Right About A Shorter Season

"We play too much baseball," Rizzo admitted Tuesday.

Tim Baffoe
April 18, 2018 - 11:09 am
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By Tim Baffoe--

(670 The Score) A season of 162 games is a lot of baseball. It’s probably too much baseball. Know who thinks that?All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs.

"We play too much baseball," Rizzo told ESPN radio host David Kaplan on Tuesday. "Yes, guys are going to take pay cuts. But are we playing this game for the money or do we love this game? I know it's both, but in the long run, it will make everything better." 

That’s a hell of a quote to unpack. At the forefront of it is acknowledging a need to alter the MLB schedule. Such a desire isn’t unheard of in sports. The NBA expanded its calendar before the current season to eliminate teams playing several games in short periods of time, including so many back-to-backs. Of particular note is that it the league gave the players’ union an active role in scheduling. The NFL added weekly Thursday night games years ago because it thinks we like watching bodies that haven’t recuperated from the last game on top of squeezed game-planning time. At least the Color Rush uniforms can blind us to the actual bad football. 

But Rizzo is one of the faces of a league, and he's using his status to lend credence to something fans and sports pundits complain about seemingly every April. This year, those complaints are more pronounced than ever, as we're seen the second-most postponed games in April this century, and we’re only mid-month. Six alone were scrapped on Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday and then three on a Monday -- including the Boston Red Sox traditional Patriots Day game -- that already had six other teams with an off day. 

Nancy Armour of USA Todayrecently called for a 142-game schedule:

What with the expansion of the playoffs, the addition of interleague play and Major League Baseball’s attempts to temper the six-month grind with more days off, the season has gradually gone beyond its historic boundaries. Last year’s World Series ended Oct. 31. This season began March 29.

Compare that with, say, the 1987 season, which began April 6 and ended Oct. 25.

Twenty games getting sliced off the schedule isn't happening, but it’s a logical idea to deal with a sport that crosses three seasons in cities with icky spring climates. Logic stands no chance against something much more important in sports, though: cash.

Which may be the more eye-opening part of Rizzo’s remarks. His "love of the game" invocation is sure to warm him to even the surliest Sox fan, but for a pro athlete in the 21st century to say that he and his peers should make less for the sake of a sport’s schedule is unheard of.

"Once you start taking money from guys, that's where it's going to be a little more dicey," Rizzo added, knowing his words wouldn’t go over well with many in his union. Maybe that’s why he was backtracking his comments later in the day.

"I have an opinion,” Rizzo told reporters before the Cubs took on the Cardinals on Tuesday with a first pitch temperature of 35 degrees and windchill of 29. "And (Kaplan is) one of my good friends on the radio. So talking to him — I’ve been talking to him for three or four years on there now. It’s just me talking as a normal person. Obviously, it gets a little more blown up now, but that’s just my humble opinion. I mean, do I think that we need to do that? No. It’s just my opinion. And like I said also in the interview, I also play first base. So I know my lane, too. 

"I just said my opinion on the air. And I don’t really want to get into it just because I don’t know. I don’t quite know it. It’s not something I stand behind. It’s just my opinion."

O ... kay? Maybe someone from union head Tony Clark’s office had a talk with Rizzo in the meantime and gently reminded him that publicly admitting anything about salary excess isn't good for future labor struggles. Maybe the league expressed dissatisfaction with half of the popular Bryzzo marketing campaign lobbying for fewer opportunities to hit dingers. It was the league itself that pushed for the Cubs and Atlanta Braves to play in unreasonable conditions Saturday, it seems, causing manager Joe Maddon to complain afterward despite his team staging a historic comeback to win the game.

"If you don't speak up at some point, then the envelope is going to continue to be pushed where we're forced to play in even worse weather," Maddon said on the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday, adding also that the Cubs shouldn’t take the blame for that game being played. "I thought I had to say something. But at the end of the day, it's not about just the Cubs wanting to go out there and play -- I'm talking about the front office or business. It's about much more than that, and we just did what we were told." 

Maddon added later Tuesday that he’s "always been okay with 162." The change in Rizzo’s tone shows how unlikely schedule reduction is when labor and management are both against it and that players who speak truth to dollars will quickly be brought in for reclamation. And there’s the stat romanticism and whatnot that still shouldn’t supersede player well-being. But for the briefest of hours, those who despise watching games with half the rosters dressed like Sub-Zero (or, worse, sitting through baseball in weather that's only enjoyable to football fans who lie to themselves about discomfort being noble or something) had a voice in a bona fide player.

"Playing in the cold sucks," Rizzo said. "I was thinking about this the other day. When you think of Cubs and Cardinals, you think of a beautiful Saturday at Wrigley Field. You don't think about playing in 20 degrees.

"In a perfect world, we'd start the season later and play a few scheduled doubleheaders going into an off day. As a fan you're going to a baseball game in April, and it's raining, snowing and (with) freezing rain. Is it really that much fun? That's my question."

And a good question at that, Anthony.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.