MLB Attendance During “Rivalry Week”

In Part I, I argue that there should be more “rivalry” games in Major League Baseball based mostly geographic proximity. In Part II, I share some humorous baseball rivalry videos.  Here in Part III, I  pull attendance data from the one weekend of the baseball season that MLB does “allow” interleague geographic rivals and see if there is anything cooking.

I will start with a quote from a May 31 article by the Baltimore Orioles beat writer Dan Connolly“I’m not a big fan of this whole “regional rivalry” stuff, because I think it’s a creation and not a reality. Good teams battling for supremacy is what builds rivalries.

That said, there’s no question that the past four games between the Orioles and Nationals were energized.  The four games series (two in DC, two in Baltimore) drew 146,708, an average of 36,777. That particularly impressive when you factor in the games were played Monday through Thursday before most schools let out (although Monday was a holiday and a sellout at Nationals Park)”

Dan is right that two good teams going after each other can make a rivalry.  It is also true that attendance on weekends and opening day goes up regardless of the opponent.  My point is that adding a regional rivalry is like adding an extra really good topping on your pizza. It adds to the flavor whether the team is good or bad and games against bad teams are not going away.

So let’s jump into the data and see if there is anything to “rival” games between franchises in the same state or neighboring states.  Here’s how the analysis was done:

Attendance was gathered from all games May 27 through May 30. Many of these games featured matchups between teams from the same city, state, or neighboring states.  (Regional rival games) Another set of games was played between franchises much further apart geographically.  (Non-regional games)  The data was set up to compare regional rival games vs. non-regional rival games on the basis of how these games stacked up against their average home attendance.

Regional rivalry games beat their average home attendance by 18% on May 27 and 28 and 7.5% on May 29 and May 30. On the same set of days, non-regional games performed about average on May 27 and May 28 with their normal attendance and were 18.8% below average May 29 and May 30.  In summary, on the same set of days, regional rivals performed 18 to 25 percent better than their non-regional games.

Here is the data and the tables will show the findings.

Monday May 27 and Tuesday May 28

May 27 and 28

Wed May 29 and Thursday May 30

May 29 and 30

Here are some specific take- aways.

  • Collectively, regional rivals games performed much better against their home average than non-regional games whether teams were winners or not.
  • It is not about interleague, it is about geography.
  • Kansas City’s Kauffman stadium will be red when St. Louis plays. There will be bay bridge traffic for games in Oakland when they host the Giants. Mets Citi field fills up for the Yanks. St. Louis, San Francisco, and New York generally do well at home no matter who they play.
  • Cincinnati and Cleveland’s battle of Ohio does not make a super-hot ticket, but it helps.
  • Minnesota/ Milwaukee and even the cross town Chicago match up did not pack their parks. The Chi-town attendance data is not compelling of a strong rivalry  this year.
  • The Orioles/Nationals and Dodgers/Angels fill up the house.
  • Beach beats baseball in Florida no matter who is playing.  A major league team in Vermont would probably draw better than Tampa and Miami. One of these teams could move to Mexico City and I don’t think anyone will get off their beach towel.
  • There is no evidence of any interest in long distance interleague games between May 27 and May 30, 2013.

Major League Baseball: Why Not More Rival City Games?

Camden Yards empty and full

Image sources: and the

Part I, Part II, Part III

Major League Baseball (MLB) is scheduling too many boring match-ups. Worse, MLB is blowing the opportunity to make more money, improve fan interest, and increase the economic impact of the games for cities.

What is MLB doing wrong?  MLB is not scheduling enough games between interleague rival cities.  Whatever baseball city you are in and whichever team you care about, this impacts you.  As a Baltimore fan, east coaster, and supporter of local vendors, I don’t want the Orioles to play the likes of Oakland and Seattle when they could be playing Philadelphia and Washington. Conversely, the A’s and Mariner’s fans probably prefer games against San Francisco and the Dodgers.  MLB can give us both what we want. The 2013 Orioles play teams in states bordering the Pacific Ocean 28 times. The Orioles play Texas, Houston, Arizona, Colorado 18 times, while the Orioles do not play Philadelphia, the NY Mets and only play the Washington Nationals four times.

Cities have natural rivalries… Just google KC vs.St. Louis, Cleveland vs.  Pittsburgh, or Houston vs. Dallas……These rivalries take many forms and can be fun and intense.  Baltimore and DC’s newest rivalry is an annual “Food Truck Battle Royale.” When rival cities compete, more people show up and adrenaline rises.  MLB should schedule accordingly.

Rust belt battleImage Source: Bike

Baltimore vs DC - FoodtrucksImage Source: InTheCapital

This is not just about stoking intraregional passions. It is about economics.  The National League Philadelphia Phillies were in Baltimore for a rare three game weekend series in June 2012. Baltimore’s downtown was awash in red.  Philly fans were coming out of restaurants, public transportation, water taxis, ice cream stands, museums, hotels, etc. The pleasant citizens of greater Philadelphia were spending money, and also building energy for a baseball rivalry that did not get renewed in 2013. The more frequent Oakland, Seattle, and other western franchise visits do not generate  this kind of economic impact.  “Regular” games between franchises thousands of miles apart with little cultural relevance don’t bring the fans, the energy, or the spending that games between teams in rival cities and closer proximity.


Phillies fans enjoying themselves in Baltimore Image source: Comeback City

Philly fans 4 - Baltimore

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is packed when a team from the Bos/Wash corridor is in town, Image source: Comeback City

MLB stadiums and game day operations are often subsidized by the taxpaying public. Accordingly, cities should get the biggest economic benefit possible. Attendance and sales of everything from hotel bookings to ice cream cones skyrocket when the intraregional Yankees and Red Sox (or Phillies) visit Camden Yards. Retailers and vendors circle these weekends on the calendar.

Surely, MLB has done a study about maximizing revenues through scheduling. Frankly, it’s time to give it another look, because there are currently not enough exciting match-ups. A good scheduling fix for 2014 will add thousands to attendance while yielding millions in associated spending. Phillies and Nationals, I am hoping to see a little more of you in 2014.  Go O’s!

What do you think? Should MLB schedule more rival city games or has MLB got the scheduling mix right?




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