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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