Major League Baseball refers to them as prime rivals — but there was nothing prime about many of the interleague series last week.
Last week, the league arranged its interleague schedule so all the neighborhood/regional matchups could take place — and we’re not talking about the Rangers-Diamondbacks or Tigers-Pirates series. Think Cubs-White Sox. Mets-Yankees. Dodgers-Angels. These were the matchups that were supposed to remind us why we love interleague play.
MLB frequently has told us how great interleague play is and how the fans love it. And I agree that there’s a heightened interest when the “prime” rivals meet. But the league might have messed up a good thing last week by altering the format.
In recent years, interleague rivalry series consisted of two three-game series played on weekends at each location. For the regional rivals, it made travel easier. The Twins-Brewers series is a great example, as fans of both swarm the other city for the games, and it has created some electric atmospheres.
This year, the league trashed the two three-game series in favor of a four-game series in which two games are played in one city on Monday and Tuesday before changing venues for the next two games.
Talk about a buzz kill.
On Monday, Memorial Day, the announced crowd of 38,627 in Milwaukee included thousands of Twins fans — who had to go home after the game to work Tuesday. Tuesday’s crowd dipped to 24,413. Both teams are playing sub-.500 ball — that is not being ignored. But Twins and Brewers fans have needed little prodding to go on weekend road trips in the past.
The Twins drew crowds in excess of 30,000 on Wednesday and Thursday, which isn’t shabby, but history shows that they would have been pushing sellouts if held on the weekend.
“I just know that it’s always been really cool here when our team comes in on a weekend,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Twins fans load this city and just the opposite when Brewers fans come over there. In the middle of the week, it makes it a little tougher. I understand how hard it is to make schedules out but those natural rivalries like this one have been fun.”
Look elsewhere around the league.
None of the Cubs-White Sox games sold out.
The Memorial Day game between Baltimore and Washington was sold out, the rest weren’t. And these are two teams with legitimate playoff chances.
Cleveland is one of the surprise teams in the league but drew just 18,364 on Thursday for its matchup with a very good Cincinnati team.
Another big question: With the move to two games in each city, why would the league take away a probable big gate from an interleague rivalry game from each owner?
Perhaps this was a test run and the league will return to weekend series for interleague rivals. It would be the right thing to do.
It’s going to be strange seeing uniform No. 5 in the Royals dugout again.