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Articles Tagged Interleague Play 

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January 4, 2007 12:00 am

Schrodinger's Bat: New Year's Wishes

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Dan Fox

Rather than resolutions, Dan crosses his fingers, closes his eyes and dreams big for 2007.

For me, New Year's resolutions are always problematic. Do I really want--let alone will I even be able--to change ingrained behaviors that I'm apparently only motivated enough to change once a year? Should I let others in on the resolutions to thereby provide accountability? Is it worth the feeling of failure and self-recrimination when, by early March, I realize that I've not only let myself down but them as well?

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May 22, 2006 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: Interleague Rain

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Joe Sheehan

A scary moment in last Tuesday's Mets/Cardinals game has Joe wondering if there's too much playing in the rain these days.

A special thanks to Matt Tagliaferri, the genius behind the Tribe's innovative DiamondView system and our coordinator for the event. On Saturday, Matt was kind enough to give me and Will Carroll a tour of DiamondView, which couldn't have been more impressive if it had asked me if I wanted to play a nice game of chess. The sheer quantity of information held by DiamondView, along with an interface that makes using it comfortable, rather than intimidating, make it a powerful tool for player evaluation. The computer doesn't make the decisions; it makes it easier for the people who do so to make the right ones. That's how you integrate technology into the front office.

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December 28, 2004 12:00 am

Interleague Play

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Jeff Hildebrand

Interleague play has been cited as a key driver of attendance in its eight years. The data indicate that its effect is much smaller than MLB would have you believe.

There are two major divisions that can be made in terms of the schedule, both of which can have significant impacts on the number of people who will show up to a game. The first is the time of year, the summer months versus spring and fall months. Games played in June, July, and August are more likely to draw good crowds than games in April, May or September are. The weather is far more likely to be conducive to doing something outdoors during the summer. In addition, during the summer kids are out of school, and therefore families are more likely to come out to a game, especially a night game. The second division is weekday games versus weekend games, with weekend games obviously being more likely to draw a larger crowd. Since most Friday games are evening games and Sunday games are afternoon games, we'll call games on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays weekend games.

Putting these two factors together, you get that weekend games during the summer are likely to be the best for attendance while non-summer weekday games will be the worst. Let's look at the distribution of interleague and regular games using these distinctions for a typical team's schedule.

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June 10, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: Institutional Imbalance

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Joe Sheehan

It's no secret that I don't like interleague play. It's a gimmick that throws the schedule into chaos for the sake of letting the Yankees play the Mets six times. If that's an exaggeration, it's only a slight one. The selling point of interleague play is the eight or nine "natural rivalries" that are played out each season, with the rest of the interleague schedule built around them. Whatever nonsense is spread about allowing fans in cities of one league to see the stars of another is just smoke and mirrors, because in some places, it will take 30 years for the entire other league to make a visit. I wouldn't mind as much if MLB would just admit that interleague play exists for the natural rivalries. Ratchet it down, make interleague just those games each year and force everyone else into two matchups built around those two weekends. MLB would rather sell the idea that interleague is hugely popular, publishing context-free attendance figures--four of six interleague series are on the weekend again, all are in June, and the natural rivalries will drive the attendance gains--as part of the perpetual misinformation campaign.

If that's an exaggeration, it's only a slight one. The selling point of interleague play is the eight or nine "natural rivalries" that are played out each season, with the rest of the interleague schedule built around them. Whatever nonsense is spread about allowing fans in cities of one league to see the stars of another is just smoke and mirrors, because in some places, it will take 30 years for the entire other league to make a visit.

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June 3, 2003 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: Mixing and Matching

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Joe Sheehan

Interleague play kicks off tonight with 14 mixed matchups. This year, we again have a new set of games, with the AL West taking on the NL East, the AL East playing the NL Central, and the AL Central and NL West hooking up for 18 games. Mostly, anyway. The odd sizes of the AL West and the NL Central complicate things, for one. Then there's MLB's desperate need to schedule the six or seven series for which the whole concept of interleague play exists, so the Yankees will again play the Mets home-and-home, the Cubs will play the White Sox and so on. Some teams will play as many as 18 interleague contests, while others will play just 12. All of this schedule-rigging trades fairness for a few extra bucks. Of course, MLB already tossed fairness out the window with regard to the wild-card spot years ago, as interleague play and the unbalanced schedule mean that teams fighting for the league's fourth slot can play wildly differing slates. Most notably, the 2001 Cardinals edged the Giants for the NL's last playoff spot by two games, benefitting not only from a weaker division, but a much weaker set of interleague games.

Mostly, anyway. The odd sizes of the AL West and the NL Central complicate things, for one. Then there's MLB's desperate need to schedule the six or seven series for which the whole concept of interleague play exists, so the Yankees will again play the Mets home-and-home, the Cubs will play the White Sox and so on. Some teams will play as many as 18 interleague contests, while others will play just 12.

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The exploding gas tank that is interleague play just toasted one team's playoff hopes, launching a less successful team into the post-season.

Passenger liners didn't customarily feature enough lifeboats for all passengers and crew until newspapers made a stink about the loss of so many well-connected people on the Titanic. The idea of trained, competent airport security workers who earned more than poverty wages, had mastery of English as a second language and had no felony convictions floundered in free-market triumphalism until 9-11. McDonald's resisted installing thermostats on coffee makers through hundreds of customer visits to burn wards until one maniacal woman took them to court over it. And Ron Gardenhire was allowed to manage a major-league team until he put on the straight sacrifice with runners on first and third and no outs in a playoff game. Oh... he's still managing.

But you get the point--usually the powers of human denial are strong enough that Ford won't recall and replace Pinto gas tanks until enough fiery explosions light up the scenery. The exploding gas tank that is interleague play just toasted one team's playoff hopes, launching a less successful team into the post-season. If you count only American League teams' games against American League opponents, the Angels (88-56) win the West, the Bosox (88-56) win the Mild Card and the A's (87-57) are out of post-season play. And if you count only National League teams' games against National League opponents, the Giants (87-56) win the West while Arizona (87-57) is relegated to the Mild Card. That's a subtle shift, but a Twilight Zone one, because in determining who Arizona would play in the first round, you have to choose two teams that played a significantly different number of league games: Atlanta (86-56) and St. Louis (89-61). It's just so 1884.

The planted turd has floated to the surface of the punch bowl, meaning it's time for MLB to deal with the ramifications. It's not like the Bosox are necessarily more deserving than the A's, but someone with a lot of money (Sox ownership, who shelled out a record amount for the franchise) just got hosed. So this is a good a time as any to consider the myriad effects of interleague play and what to do about it. The problems aren't just in wins and losses, they're in player records and accomplishments too. This season, Bonds and Sosa tied for the NL home run crown, if you count National League games against National League opponents only. Pretty exciting, but we never got to enjoy it. In fact the two human tater-factories probably never knew the late-season struggle they were engaged in.

Toss or Fix?

While I know interleague series that occur between Opening Day and the playoffs are merely a mutant marketed to harvest extra pelf for a few big-city franchises, the momentum to get rid of it isn't in place. Yet for every cure for insomnia, say a Minnesota-Pittsburgh or San Diego-Seattle match-up, there's a marquee match-up, a New York subway series or a Missouri bragging rights face-off.

As tasty as the thought of dumping interleague regular-season play is, it's not going to happen soon enough to prevent more teams from being edged for playoff spots by teams that were better equipped to face opponents from the other league, or luckier in their draw of other-league competition.

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