Ever since Interleague play started in 2005, its arrival every year has been greeted with a debate that will likely never end: How great or awful is it? Does it detract from the regular season or make it more interesting? Does it dilute rivalries or give teams a real test?
Here at the Tsubamegun, we bring a brief version of the debate and encourage you to most passionately take sides in the comments.
First, just because he wrote faster and submitted first, Scott Cavanaugh with the case against Interleague play:
– League separation was one of the key factors that made baseball unique. Now there really isn’t much difference between baseball and any other sport in Japan. As for the leagues working together, that should have started a long time ago. However, Yomiuri and Hanshin didn’t want to help out the other teams and now all of NPB is suffering.
– It creates fake and unnatural rivalries in a way. Fans love rivalries. But many fans feel that Inter league Play forces rivalries to develop that have no business being rivalries. It is good to visit other stadiums, but really do I need to go to Kleenex Stadium or the Seibu “Dome”? No, I don’t.
– The difference in rules between the 2 leagues creates an uneven playing field. In the Pacific League, they utilize the designated hitter. So when they travel to Central League ballparks, they are forced to alter their lineups and sit their DH. Is this fair? Again, no.
– Lastly, many feel that Interleague play can hinder the uniqueness of the Climax Series. This is the same argument used in MLB. If you really want to have a unique end of season tournament, then keep the leagues separate.
Having said all that, I would rather have one league of 12 teams. It would be much better for the country as a whole. Plus the players would not be as bored playing the same teams every other week. There would be a bit more variety!
And Garrett DeOrio with an argument for league-swinging:
– Variety is the spice of life for the fans. . . Don’t get me wrong, I like abusing Hanshin and hoping Yokohama doesn’t somehow manage to make Tokyo the only team they can beat – again – but 28 meetings with every other Central League team every year was a bit much some years. Bringing in match-ups with the other league gives fans a bit of variety in terms of opponents, allows them a chance to see players they wouldn’t otherwise see while still supporting their team, and breaks up the monotony that can sometimes set in in the CL, when some times seem to fall out of contention by June every year.
– . . . and for teams. The debate over whether hitters or pitchers gain an advantage through numerous meetings or which teams benefit most from getting to know every other team in the league intimately is interesting, to be sure, but the test teams face when they face less-familiar opponents – when batters have to face pitchers they not have ever seen and vice versa, when players take to unfamiliar fields in unfamiliar surroundings after taking unfamiliar trips – is valuable and helps determine the different strengths and weaknesses teams have. I’d argue that a solid performance against teams in the opposite league as well as a team’s own league is a vital part of determining which squad is really the strongest and, thus, creates not only compelling ballgames, but also matters in the standings.
– The travel is great. Seeing other teams play at home and visiting other parks is always a highlight of travel to a different city for most baseball fans – in addition to just seeing a different stadium and soaking up the atmosphere, you can see what your own home could be doing better. (Kleenex Miyagi Stadium, for instance: great park, way too much pseudo-Disney crap. I envy their amenities and and green surroundings and despise them for their dozen mascots, surplus of cheerleaders, and fans on the field after almost every inning. I get to gripe about Jingu while feeling superior at the same time. Sapporo Dome? All new and shiny, but still shitty – I’ve been able to confirm my theory that domes always suck.) It’s that much better when you can see your own team in a new setting.
– It could boost attendance and revenue. Particularly in Tokyo, hosting PL teams with loyal followings, like Chiba, and especially out-of-town PL teams whose Tokyo-based fans might be getting a rare chance to see their guys, like Fukuoka, means more ticket sales, especially if the weather holds. (Almost all baseball fans in Japan are literally fair-weather fans.)
– Anything that increases cooperation between the CL and PL is a plus. NPB is a weak and dissolute organization, the individual leagues are stronger and, particularly in the CL, the individual teams stronger still. This is to the detriment of the game. NPB needs a plan for just about everything – boosting attendance, coordinating broadcasts, getting to the potential audience overseas, attracting younger fans, merchandising, modernizing facilities, you name it. Interleague play is one venue in which the two leagues have to get used to working together and could lead to greater cooperation, and advances, in the future.
– It gives you five more favorite teams. After all, every PL team but the one Tokyo is playing is a team to root for in an Interleague game.