What nobody is talking about

There are plenty of hot topics in baseball today, a sampling of which includes:

{exp:list_maker}Justin Upton is killing the ball while his brother, B.J., is getting killed.
The Red Sox and Yankees are 1-2 in the American League East, just as God—or at least ESPN—intended it, while the Blue Jays absorbed the Marlins’ big payroll obligations yet continue to absorb loss after loss.
Those same Yankees have compiled one of baseball’s better records while nearly $100 million in payroll sits on the disabled list.
Roy Halladay has looked, at best, mortal, at worst, mostly dead, and now he’s on the DL.
Los Angeles’ two franchises are scuffling along with sub-.500 records despite adding making major salary outlays over the winter.
Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts! Oh, the humanity, strikeouts everywhere!!!{/exp:list_maker}
While all of these stories and many others are quite deserving of the coverage they’ve received, there’s one story that seems to have all but evaporated in terms of the attention it’s getting now compared to before the season started.

Remember when the 2013 campaign began just a few weeks ago? It was a Sunday night, and the baseball world was awash with coverage of the Houston Astros’ first-ever game as an American League franchise. As a bonus, they were playing their in-state rivals, the Texas Rangers, which amped up the hype up that much more.

The next day, the Cincinnati Reds, baseball’s original professional franchise, hosted an interleague matchup against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It marked the first time in the long tradition of the parades, festivities, and overall jubilation that is Opening Day in the Queen City that the opponent was from the junior circuit.

These events were big deals, the subject of much debate and analysis. How would the baseball world adjust to having interleague series being played on an ongoing basis? Would interleague still have that “special event” feeling that it once did (if it ever did)?

How would American League teams adjust their rosters to accommodate these schedule changes, ones that meant benching players such as David Ortiz and Billy Butler for multiple three-game stretches during the year? How would National League teams staff their rosters in anticipation of games that use the designated hitter?

These all seemed like big issues during spring training and in the early days of the regular season. Now, though, they seem to be much ado about nothing. The games are being played, one team or another has to adjust for a few games, and then it’s back to normal.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is that web sites no longer list scores with the NL in the left column and the AL in the right (or vice versa). Instead, they’re listed by home park, game time, or some other factor, which makes finding a particular game a bit of a pain.

It will be quite interesting to see how interleague games do at the gate. Without the hype and scheduling benefits of playing interleague series exclusively in the summer and mostly on weekends, will the numbers show higher fan attendance than for intraleague matchups?

My guess is that we’ll discover interleague showdowns aren’t the attendance panacea they’re made out to be. And won’t it be fun to pop Bud Selig’s bubble on that one?

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Comments

  1. Jim G. said...

    I don’t like inter-league play and it’s affect on the World Series. To me, that’s where the most negative effect is. The mystery that no one really knew how the two teams would match up head-to-head because they had no common opponents leading up to the series. I think it lent greatly to the intrigue.
    But inter-league play is a reality and not going away. I think the bump in attendance is a lesser point, and it will decrease as those games lose their uniqueness.
    The question is, will MLB take advantage of that interchangeability and be more like the NBA, NHL and lesser so, the NFL. The NFL has held on to the NFC/AFC format, keeping cities with multiple teams in separate conferences. Hockey and basketball have those multi-team cities in the same division, let alone conference.  I expect that baseball will keep it’s AL/NL format for historical reasons, even though that sanctity has been broken twice now by the Brewers and Astros. (I don’t think the NFL has ever switched a franchise between conferences, have they?) But with the amount of games and travel MLB, maybe they need to consider an NBA/NHL alignment to maximize their schedule and travel.
    One positive thing common inter-league games will affect is a final decision on the DH.

  2. Greg Simons said...

    Jim G. – Thanks for the comments.  I anticipate this change in interleague format will help bring about the introduction of the DH to the NL … eventually.  I have no idea on the time frame.

    The Seattle Seahawks did switch from the AFC to the NFC in 2002.  Looking up the year, I learned they were in the NFC their first year as a franchise in 1976 before moving to the AFC.  They switched places with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so that’s two NFL teams that have changed conferences – one twice.

  3. Paul G. said...

    When the conferences were created as part of the NFL-AFL merger, the NFL franchises in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh became part of the AFC which otherwise was all AFL teams.  Does that count as a conference shift?

  4. Mark B. said...

    I don’t like interleague play: it’s baseball communism. Definitely don’t like the Designated Hitter for the same reasons. And I am a Hater of the Bud Selig (The Anti-Christ)/Jim Crane (Idiot!)/Astros (My team for 50 years and they are now dead, DEAD to me!) cabal. There is a special place in Hell for Mr. Selig….a well deserved one.

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