THE INGENUITY of the people who run major league baseball is a constant source of awe. First came the strike, brought on by the fact that the owners of some teams could not restrain themselves from offering astronomical salaries to the stars of other teams. Then there was the All-Star game, an annual event designed to show off the talents of the superstars--only this year it was played as the first game after the strike, when not even the superstars were in physical condition to play well. Now there is the "split season."

Football fans should keep in mind that the split season has no relationship to the split end. It doesn't play or do anything else except declare, ex post facto, that one baseball season ended when the strike began and a new one began when the strike ended.

There are, obviously, troubles with this arrangement. It gives certain teams scheduling advantages, and in its original form could have created situations in which a team would be better off losing than winning particular games. But those are trifles compared with the split season's two great advantages: it creates more winners and it gives teams that played badly in May and June a second chance.

Just think what this device could accomplish off the baseball diamond. Tip O'Neill could proclaim 1981 as the year of the "split season" on Capitol Hill. His team did so poorly in the spring and summer that it is surely entitled to a second chance in September. A playoff could even be scheduled for December because, under baseball's rules, Ronald Reagan's team couldn't win the year just by winning both seasons; it would have to win a playoff as well.

James Watt could do worse than to demand a second season at the Interior Department. His team's earned run average was not good during the first seven months, and there seemed to be as many errors as hits. Over at Transportation, surely both Drew Lewis and Robert Poli would like a second chance. Their season seems to have come to an end with only losers, and nobody likes that. Across the river, gubernatorial candidates Charles Robb and Marshall Coleman could declare their first season a draw and start over. Maybe that way they could do exactly what baseball is trying to do: create some excitement and entice more fans to the arenas.

This could be known as the era of Starting Over. Since life imitates sports--or is it vice versa?--any one will be able to call for a split season when the going gets tough, and start again. Think what it could have done for Jimmy Carter.