We are in the middle of inter-league play. Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers are coming to Boston. It is going to be an exciting weekend, but the last series with the Diamondbacks does not get circled on any fan’s schedule in January nor does the All-Star Game unless it is in your home city. A few slight schedule changes could assist in making inter-league play tolerable for even the purists.
As my colleague mentioned a few days ago, inter-league play generates too much revenue to be eliminated in the near future. But below is a plan to alleviate the two major negatives to those contests: too many games and the unbalanced schedule.
1) Eliminate the one May inter-league series. It does not bring any public relations value when the rest of inter-league occurs in June. The one series likely does not even act as a reminder to the average fan to purchase a ticket for a June inter-league game. And it just seems out of place. Even the “natural rival” series’ seems odd like the weird Aunt or Uncle at the family reunion.
2) Schedule all inter-league games the two weeks prior to the All-Star Game. The fourteen days would act as a warm up to help reignite the past popularity of the ASG. It would also give more casual fans something to look forward to or hook them into MLB, after the NBA Champs have been crowded. MLB has no good reason to compete against the NBA Finals.
3) Every team in the same Division plays the same other League opponents to reduce the unbalanced nature of schedule against Division rivals. It would be a more even playing field for three out of the four playoff spots. It is not perfect and we would need to have exceptions – more National League teams, varying number of teams in the Divisions – but it would be better.
When the clubs take on their same Division in the other League, the “natural rivals” would play six times (three game series in each home park) and the take on the other foes in two game series. Those clubs without “natural rivals” would play each other in a three game series. For example, the Yankees play the Mets six times, the Marlins, Nats, Phillies, and Braves twice for a total of fourteen games in as many days. Travel should not be an issue since clubs are staying in the same time zone and have the All-Star Break coming up. In a non-natural rival example, the Red Sox would play the Phillies and Braves each three times, the Marlins, Nats, and Mets each twice. It is not perfectly balanced but it is better than whatever we have now, without reducing the number of games or revenue from the “natural rival” contests.
The larger opportunity for MLB is condensing inter-league play into roughly the two weeks right before the Mid-Summer Classic to assist in promoting the All-Star Game. MLB needs to stir up the old League rivalries because the Game has become like all the other All-Star Games. Let’s bring back the Mid-Summer Classic!