Interleague play doesn’t boost attendance

DMZ · December 28, 2004 at 11:42 am · Filed Under Mariners 

You might want to check out “Interleague Play” a subscriber article o’er at Baseball Prospectus by Jeff Hildebrand. Hildebrand looks at the interleague games and finds that the attendance boost is pretty small, with the apparant boost due to the fact that interleague matchups are all summer games, and disproportionately weekend games. Check it out if you’re a subscriber.


36 Responses to “Interleague play doesn’t boost attendance”

  1. Jim Thomsen on December 28th, 2004 12:54 pm

    Hey, I don’t know about the rest of you … but I LIVE for that traditional Mariners-Marlins rivalry. So steeped in sepia-toned history … so reminiscent of Yankees-Red Sox … I’m amazed Ken Burns hasn’t done a 47-part PBS documentary on it ….

    Oh, wait. They’ve never played. Never mind.

    Bring on the A’s.

  2. Jon Wells on December 28th, 2004 1:18 pm

    The M’s will be playing the Marlins for the first time next June at Pro Player Stadium. The Marlins are the last team that Seattle has never played during the regular season…

  3. Jim Thomsen on December 28th, 2004 1:21 pm

    Like I said, a long and storied rivalry … marinated in mystique.

  4. EA on December 28th, 2004 1:25 pm

    I just can’t wait to get another shot at our hated rivals, the San Diego Padres. You remember the time the Padres, ummmmm….ohhh….hmmmm… I hate those guys so much!

  5. Matt Williams on December 28th, 2004 1:38 pm

    Hey, we should be excited for interleague play because that means Jamie Moyer will be able to bat. For the M’s his hitting has been better than his pitching was last year. He’s 6 for 22.

    /small sample size voodoo

  6. paul mocker on December 28th, 2004 1:40 pm

    tradition vs. innovation. I favor tradition. But since I usually have my head in a history book that isn’t surprising.

  7. Jim Thomsen on December 28th, 2004 1:46 pm

    What interests me is if interleague play, compared to league play, has produced any interesting spikes or valleys in statistical performance … either on an individual or team level. Do certain types of teams or players do better against “fresh meat” than others? Or worse? Have any studies been done on this?

  8. DMZ on December 28th, 2004 1:47 pm
  9. Jim Thomsen on December 28th, 2004 1:52 pm

    And the Mariners and Padres have a great Cactus League rivalry, too.

  10. Aaron on December 28th, 2004 2:20 pm

    Ideally we would play the A’s, Rangers, and Yankees about 50 times each during the season.

    Has interleague play ruined baseball? Only if you think the DH, LCS and free-agency have, too. There’s this counter-revolution of knee-jerk reactions to everything Bud Selig does, and a bunch of very strenuously constructed arguments against these ‘non-traditional’ things.

    Seriously, is there any argument against interleague play besides ‘that’s not they way it used to be?’

  11. DMZ on December 28th, 2004 2:29 pm

    Seriously, is there any argument against interleague play besides ‘that’s not they way it used to be?’

    Come on, now, to say that any objection to interleague play is a “knee-jerk reaction” is unfair.

    1) Travel
    2) Screws up scheduling
    3) Makes scheduling even more unfair which
    3a) undermines fairness of wild card playoff berths
    3b) undermines fairness of divisional pennants
    4) Pointless matchups with teams and games even less meaningful than in-league pointless matchups

    3a is mitigated somewhat by the larger unfairness of wild card play with unbalanced in-league scheduling, but it’s still there.

  12. chris w on December 28th, 2004 2:52 pm

    Add to DMZ’s list:

    – Ruins novelty of All-Star Game and World Series AL vs. NL matchups.

  13. Jon on December 28th, 2004 3:05 pm

    I am ambivalent about interleague play. Since I could take it or leave it, I suppose that I would prefer that it go away, thereby making the All-Star game and the World Series more exclusive (and, in turn, more special) like the old days. Which means it ain’t going anywhere.

    The boost in attendance from interleague play has always been a red herring, a myth just waiting to be debunked. To say it increases attendance is like saying that games in months that start with “J” draw better so we should rename the first two months Japril and Jay.

  14. Tim on December 28th, 2004 3:05 pm

    DMZ, I’m not trying to be difficult, but I don’t see these same problems with your points.

    1) Are teams in the NL any farther away than teams in the AL? I don’t see how this complicates travel. They still play series of three to four games. Sure, they travel to more cities, but they would be traveling from somewhere either way.
    2)Screws up scheduling. I don’t see how this matters to anyone who isn’t making the schedule. Sure it takes time to do it, but really doesn’t effect the league or the fans that much.
    3)I think the fairness issue is overstated. Anyone who plays in the Central division has an easier time winning the wild card than another team in the AL West. That is just as “unfair.” The teams rotate in whom they play, so its not systematically unfair. If teams always had the same matchups, maybe, but that’s not the case.
    4) Pointless matchups exist regardless, so that’s a moot point.

    Personally, its fun to see different players from the other league. I understand the traditional and novelty arguement, but I think the other reasons are minimal if non existant against interleague play.

  15. pat on December 28th, 2004 3:06 pm

    #10 – I think the main correlary argument is that it leads to an unbalanced schedule, so teams from different divisions play different opponents every year.

  16. Jason on December 28th, 2004 3:09 pm

    If interleague play persists, I’d like to see one change. The games should use the ruleset of the visiting team. I’d like to go to the Safe and see Moyer hit, not just go to the Safe and see Bonds DH…

  17. Aaron on December 28th, 2004 3:26 pm

    The ‘teams with different schedules competing for the same playoff spot’ is by far the strongest argument against interleague play (I’ll defer to #14 on the others), but even then it happens outside of interleague play. Unbalanced schedules create the same problem, but if you went back to a balanced schedule, people would complain about the extra travel and the bland matchups!

    Sorry, but it has just always seemed to me to be a strawman people set up to knock down Selig’s regeime.

  18. Mark on December 28th, 2004 3:28 pm

    #16 – I couldn’t disagree more. To be forced to use the visiting teams rules in a game played at home is to give the visiting team an advantage. And I don’t see why this is an argument for interleague play anyhow; we could simply play a few games per year (against AL teams) with NL rules. Just as silly, but there it is.

  19. Jim Thomsen on December 28th, 2004 3:38 pm

    #17 — Let’s not ignore the point of this post: That Selig’s posturing about interleague play as an attendance booster may be the biggest straw man of them all.

  20. Aaron on December 28th, 2004 4:13 pm

    No doubt, Jim.
    I’m not trying to take the unenviable position of defending everything Bud says and does, and if Hildebrand’s article takes the same stance (not a subscriber), I don’t have any problem at all with that position. Selig’s done some questionable things, and backed them up with some phoney numbers…..but I don’t see that as being any worse than attacking those initiatives with equally phoney studies and numbers (for the record, I’m mostly thinking of some high-profile Wild Card opponants, but that’s not really on topic).

  21. Xteve X on December 28th, 2004 4:48 pm

    It’s not the dumbest thing Bud’s ever done (All-Star Game winner gets home field advantage in the Fall Classic? That’s BS, period.) but as I recall the way interleague was originally sold to the fans was primarily as a way of boosting attendence by giving fans the chance to see those wacky, weird NL teams they never got to see.

    Having lived in Chicago the past 3 years until recently it was a treat to watch the White Sox vs the Cubs. I can imagine Mets-Yanks would be equally exciting, maybe As-Giants. But other than those markets who gives a flying you know what. Who in the world was excited about Ms-Expos last year?

  22. PositivePaul on December 28th, 2004 5:07 pm

    The only benefit to me is actually getting to see players I’d have to travel a kajillion miles otherwise to see in person (provided I end my financial protest and actually attend an interleague game). My “gut” tells me that the AL teams would have a disadvantage in an NL park, statistically and strategically, by losing the DH (i.e. it’s a whole lot easier for NL teams to adapt to the AL having the DH, than for the AL teams to have to adjust to NOT having it). I’d be more interested in the actual stats for this, if there indeed is a way to track them. Therefore, as a huge fan of an AL team that doesn’t have a cross-state (let alone a cross-town) rival, I’m bothered by it overall.

  23. jim on December 28th, 2004 5:14 pm

    I, for one, was excited about the M’s-Expos series last year because the Expos sucked even worse than the M’s and gave us a chance to bring back Cory the Mariner Optimist by winning five in a row.

    It seems obvious that two teams who blow individually won’t provide prime entertainment no matter what division or league they’re in.

  24. Paul Molitor Cocktail on December 28th, 2004 6:02 pm

    I don’t have a BP subscription, but:

    Posit: the main rivalries that interleague play is supposed to foster are intraregional rivalries. White Sox versus Cubs. Mets versus Yankees. Etc.

    Observation: because those two teams are playing one another, there is only one game ‘in town’ (or that region) during the series.

    Observation: this will naturally result in lower baseball attendance in that area than if both teams were playing at home.

    Conclusion: baseball attendance in that area will be lower than normal.

    Posit: Suppose the natural schedule would have the two teams playing in different regions.

    Observation: Since only one city/region is having a game instead of two, baseball attendance will again be naturally lower, because there is less of a fan base to draw from.

    Conclusion: Again, this results in lowered attendance.

    I find it hard to slam it as much as others. I attended the Ms-Cubs game a few years ago, and saw Sammy Sosa hit one out of the park. That was cool, and since the nearest NL park is in SF, interleague is the only way I’ll get to see NL players in person, unless they switch leagues.

  25. mfan on December 28th, 2004 6:22 pm

    PMC – But, there are still the same number of overall games. I’m assuming (not a subscriber either) that the article is based on average attendance, which you’d expect (apparently, incorrectly so) to be higher in a Cubs/WS game than the average of Cubs/Reds and WS/Royals games.

    To further illustrate, consider a four-team scenario. Take Cubs, WS, Yanks and Mets for convenience. You can match them up Chi/Chi and NY/NY or Chi/NY twice. Either way, you’re getting one game per city on average. I don’t think the points in your post are the reasons behind whatever the conclusions of the article are.

  26. mr kenny on December 28th, 2004 7:29 pm

    if the games are about novelty if they are not about regional rivalry, why not show american league rules games in national league parks and national league rules here at home. for instance, no dh in yankee stadium for the mets? just a thought.

  27. David J Corcoran on December 28th, 2004 8:23 pm

    Regarding the Pads rivalry. Four words. Rondell White. Jeff Nelson.

  28. David J Corcoran on December 28th, 2004 8:26 pm

    Don’t get no mo’ heated than that.

    But one question, why did we get stuck playing the Expos/Nationals 3 years in a row???!?!? I understand the Cincy schedule thing, but couldn’t we’ve played the Braves this year instead of the Expos?

  29. Lonnie on December 28th, 2004 8:34 pm

    I am not a proponent for interleague games, but, in 2001 it was great to watch them play here in Colorado against the Rockies. Otherwise, I have to go to Kansas City to watch them play (nearest AL team).

    I just wish that they could play each other every year.


  30. Deanna on December 28th, 2004 8:35 pm

    I can’t read the article, but two comments:

    1) Derek’s post making fun of the “historical rivalry” of the Padres-Mariners is hilarious;

    2) They’re trying interleague play for the first time ever in Japan this year as well. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out, but I think it’ll end up being similar to America — the most popular team there (the Giants, in the Central League) will boost attendance for the respective Pacific League teams when they play there, just as the Yankees (and Red Sox?) do here.

    Aside, I’m happy we get to see the Phillies play in Seattle this year. They’re my other “home team”, as it were.

  31. Phil on December 28th, 2004 9:44 pm

    For the Mariners, interleague play is a joke. But not for some other teams. In the AL, we get to see the A’s and the Yankees and the Red Sox on a regular basis. The NL doesn;t really have that. The hallowed clubs, the Cubs, the Braves, just don’t pack a punch like the Yanks and Red Sox do. And for Chicago and New York, the chance for teams in the same city to play is a big deal.

    I’m not a big inter league fan, mostly because of unfair scheduling, but I have no problems w. the matchups. Except for Mariners-Padres 🙂

  32. roger thornhill on December 28th, 2004 9:55 pm

    at the risk of posting an opinion not steeped in anything but personal experience, i think the interleague thing was a nice idea to try. but, once all the teams have met at least once (i think that happens across the board this year, but i may be wrong), it is then time to revisit the idea to see if it’s still ‘nice.’ according to many of you, i gather it’s not so nice anymore. i think i agree. i had fun seeing the cubs and expos, but i’m over it. the tickets i plan to buy this year are all against american league rivals. if we all stop buying the interleague tickets, they’ll stop scheduling those games. actions vs. words. now there’s a good rivalry.

  33. Joshua Buergel on December 28th, 2004 10:03 pm

    Seriously, is there any argument against interleague play besides ‘that’s not they way it used to be?’

    The problem I have with interleague play is that it plays against baseball’s strengths as a sport. One of the things that differentiates baseball from other sports is the length of the schedule. You get to play the other teams in your league a (semi-)meaningful number of times, and get to see a season series play out in a real way. That’s the kind of thing that builds natural, real rivalries and helps build interest in the baseball season as a narrative, at least for me. By diluting the schedule across a greater number of teams, you’ve robbed the season of some of its narrative power. Every series against the Padres and Expos robs us of a series against the Indians and Royals. And yes, I’d much rather watch a series against those teams than an NL team. I understand the appeal of getting to see teams in person that you normally do not get a chance to, and I did get a thrill from watching Sosa hit a bomb in Safeco, but for me at least, the cost in the schedule is not worth it. With television these days, it’s not like the NL teams and players are inaccessible, after all.

    And for the record, I absolutely hate the argument that the “natural rivals” somehow make it worth it. Baseball scheduling should be about fairness, not shovelling some more dough into the overfull coffers of the select few annointed media darlings. To distort the schedule just to make people in Chicago and New York happy is truly lame.

    The hallowed clubs, the Cubs, the Braves, just don’t pack a punch like the Yanks and Red Sox do.

    Spoken like an AL fan.

  34. Jeff Kupp on December 29th, 2004 11:00 am

    …………..another AL fan
    With the great job the NFL has done marketing it’s crazy to point at them as a reason not to do something, but for those who can remember the Jets super bowl or own a TV and seen replays of Joe Willy hobbling off the field holding his finger in the air there was a time when the superbowl meant more than who has the best commercial, least clothes, or will score the biggest marketing deal…… The AFL NFL superbowl in the first handful of years were beyond rivalaries……. there was something to prove, 30 years later after wringing every possible nickel out of the fans even rematches of last years championship games during the first few weeks of the season it’s hard to tell or care NFC from AFC. I would rather never see another national team until we play a game in OCTOBER but I would be thrilled if interleague play were cut back to ever 5th year. That’s probably a fantasy though just like the Bud bashers dreaming of the day Kenesaw Mountain Landis arises from the dead & fixs the ills of MLB……get over it already. The guy, Bud not Landis, has had his problems but the game is headed in the right direction. He inherited what had to have been one of the more difficult jobs in history, considering he was an owner, had two tough unions to contend with (players & umps) a group of billionaire owners, and a host of problems. In his time he’s added the wildcard (love it), reined the umps in (good), luxury tax (estimated 60 mil of george’s Yankee money in 2005!!!!!), Interleague play (can bare it), and the Allstar game winner homefield advantage (the game means something how’s that bad). He’s got a lot of work to do with steriods, a new bargaining agreement, the Expos, and the luxury tax but bottom line the guy seems to care about the game & overall in a difficult position he’s making progress.

  35. Xteve X on December 30th, 2004 11:01 am

    Re: #34 I couldn’t disagree more about the All-Star Game providing home field advantage. I think it’s the dumbest gimcrack idea in a long line of dumb gimcrack ideas to make a meaningless exhibition game “mean” something. It’s an exhibition for the fans …nothing more. I think the idea that home field advantage for the biggest, most important series in the sport is decided by an exhibition game is freaking LUDICROUS, to put it kindly. I don’t watch any of the All-Star games in any of the major sports because these days it’s guaranteed to be a half-assed contest at best…these guys get paid way too much money to actually risk getting hurt or, in the case of the NBA All-Star Game, God forbid they actually play defense. I guarantee that without the TV networks putting on the big time hype machine to draw fans in it doesn’t make the MLB All-Star Game one iota more relevant than it was two years ago, not to this fan anyways.

  36. Patrick Meighan on January 3rd, 2005 7:26 pm

    Interleague Play dilutes the appeal of the World Series, to me.

    Before, we had teams meeting in October who might not have faced each other for forty years, if ever. That’s neat! Now, you sometimes get two League Champions facing off after already having done so just a couple months prior. To me, it’s just not the same. It’s just not as cool.

    I want Interleague Play to go away.