Bryce Harper Proposes 135-Game MLB Regular Season with Round-Robin Playoffs

Jesse Pantuosco
May 16, 2020 - 10:12 am
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Sometimes when I’m hit by a late-night stroke of genius, I’ll use the Note function on my iPhone or text myself a one or two-word reminder to keep the idea from escaping. But Bryce Harper’s bedtime brainstorm Friday night was too good not to share with his 1.7 million Instagram followers.

Harper heard the league’s proposed 82-game mini-season and did them one better. The Phillies outfielder laid out an ambitious 135-game schedule for the upcoming 2020 campaign featuring a number of new wrinkles including an East/West alignment reminiscent of the NBA’s two-conference structure and expanded 30-man rosters. Harper also advocates for six-man starting rotations, a necessary measure in a highly condensed regular season. The six-time All-Star’s plan doesn’t call for much rest, though it does allow for a reprieve every other Monday. Borrowing a page from the minor leagues’ playbook, Harper suggested Sunday double-headers with each game lasting a mere seven innings. Some baseball purists aren’t in favor of the National League’s plan to adopt a designated hitter in 2020, but Harper (who will probably do a fair amount of DHing for the Phillies this season) doesn’t put himself in that category.

Harper’s hypothetical 135-game slate would run from July to mid-November with 10 teams qualifying for postseason play. The playoffs would have a twist as well with a round-robin format (conceptually similar to the College World Series) consisting of best-of-three rounds with losers facing off in a one-game Wild Card. Harper sees all this playing out in a single location, with Las Vegas (players could shack up on the Strip) and Arlington, Texas (home of newly-built Globe Life Field) floated as potential host cities. To give the remaining teams a breather, Harper suggested the league stage an All-Star Game and Home Run Derby before the World Series. MLB could also hold its annual awards ceremony during that two-day window.

One of the biggest hurdles MLB faces, beyond the obvious safety concerns amid COVID-19, is how subsequent seasons would be affected given the league’s unusually late start to 2020. Well Harper has a fix for that too. He favors a gradual approach to restoring normalcy, calling for a May 1st start to the 2021 campaign and an April 1st opening the following year with the league reverting to its usual start time (typically late March) in 2023. To make the action more accessible to fans, Harper thinks games should be available on all platforms with no television blackouts.

Harper’s idea is quite thorough and the star right-fielder deserves plenty of credit for his creative call to action. Squeezing in 135 games in just over four months would be a tall order and Harper’s plan doesn’t address the elephant in the room, which is ownership and players’ ongoing tug-of-war over revenue sharing. But even if it never comes to fruition, the 27-year-old’s eye-opening proposal is at least fun to envision.

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