Interleague Pro vs. Con

npb interleagueEver 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.


  • Kozo

    My only real objection with NPB interleague play is the way it’s scheduled. If these games were just sprinkled into the season (like “home away from home” games) I wouldn’t really have a problem with it. But taking a month-and-a-half break from the pennant race, with lots of off days kills the momentum of the season for me.

    • I agree. Maybe a couple of weeks in the begging of May, then a couple near the end of June/ beginning of July? Other than that I don’t mind interleague that much. Although I agree that it’s harder to bring out the kind of hate reserved for the Giants, Tigers, and Dragons, oh my.

      • I agree with you both – I don’t really understand why all Interleague games are lumped together and set off as a kind of break from the season. Having them scheduled in with other games would take away none of the good points of Interleague games and would allow for more flexible scheduling and, maybe, less-grueling travel.

  • Hokkaido chocolate

    It’s hard to not be biased given that we consistently suck during interleague and that should be reason enough to not have it, but I like the variety and I never understood how you can have a ‘league’ with only 6 teams anyway. It’s boring to just play the same clowns over and over. I’d rather a 12 team league or have more interleague games (as long as we get better at it ;p)

  • Steve Novosel

    I am very pro-interleague and I would like to see more of it, honestly. I do think it should be broken up a bit more with maybe 6 games here, 6 games there, etc.

    But it injects much-needed variety into the season, IMO.

  • NPB Card Guy

    I don’t have a problem with interleague itself but they’ve really got to cut down on the number of off days.

  • Lawrence Abbott

    For someone who is a huge NPB fan based in America, I love interleague. Youtube is killer great for highlights and I have done my best to find devoted fans posting highlights, but let’s be honest: trying to find Chiba Lotte Marines highlights on Youtube can be difficult (or Nippon Ham NON-Otani game highlights, you get my drift). However, when Chiba plays either the Tigers or the Giants, there’s never an issue finding highlights (as there as numerous Youtube-based devotees of the Giants and Tigers). Granted, this website is heaven for an American-based NPB fan, but it is still difficult to follow Pa-league teams if you can only ‘read’ boxscores (my Japanese is a bit sketchy, know tons of kanji’s due to NPB, but my first language is English). The only English-written Rakuten Eagles blog (Eagles are my favorite NPB team) went ‘dark’ three years ago. Thus, to get English-based commentary (aside from the weekly postings on on my favorite Pa-league teams is a HUGE bonus of interleague play.

    If I lived in Japan, I might have a different take. Alas, there’s one really, really unnerving aspect of NPB and that is the pure dominance of media attention to the Giants and Tigers (and to a lesser degree, Chunichi). As such, I love when the Pa-league beats the Ce-league – particularly when it involves beating the Giants or the Tigers. The Pa-league has been the innovative league and – not surprisingly – the Ce-league wants to minimize Interleague. And we ‘know’ who’s really behind that: The Giants and the Tigers. Thus, by extension, anything that rubs the haughty Giants and Tigers the wrong way (and benefits NPB in general), I am all for!

    • Steve Novosel

      Lawrence, now’s the time when I need to pimp my blog:

      I’m (obviously) a Marines fan but about 99% of what I talk about is Pa-League. And lately I’ve been posting every game.

      Honestly I think it’s much much easier to follow the Pacific League than the Ce League from outside Japan since the PL posts highlights from every single PL game on their You Tube channel.

      Speaking of the Eagles Blog – Andrew left Japan 3 years ago, but I am not sure why he shuttered his website when he did so. He had some nice content on there, it would have been nice to have it as an archive.

      • Kozo

        You need a Japanese IP-address to watch the videos on the Pa-League (and now the Ce-league) YouTube channels, don’t you? I tried to share a Pa-league video with Deanna when she was back in the states, and she got a “This video is unavailable in your region” message. Not that these restrictions aren’t that hard to get around, but it’s not the easiest.

        • Steve Novosel

          Yes, you do but that’s pretty trivial to get around. You can get a Firefox plugin to do it in one click. Pa League TV doesn’t support Linux either but with one click my Linux Firefox becomes Windows IE 😉

          My point is it’s easier than ever to get highlights for NPB, despite a few hurdles.

          • Dr. No

            Oooooh, I’ll take this chance to ask the Marines expert:

            Are the outfield seats at QVC reserved or jiyuseki? I prob won’t be able to get to Chiba until 12:30-ish on Sunday and would rather get reserved seats if I can’t get there early.


          • Steve Novosel

            There’s reserved but only on the home side. All the visitor seats are jiyuu.

            Another option is the “standing deck” – its kind of a picnic area in left field and you can get reserved single seats for 2500.

          • Dr. No

            thanks for the quick reply!

          • Lawrence Abbott

            Please share the secret sauce! I am going to be back in Japan in early July, but would love to get the Pa-league channel back here in the states! Thanks in advance and YES, I have visited your blog – great, great stuff! Thanks for a great set of blogs!

  • Kevin Fisher

    I think I’m with the majority here that interleague provides some much-needed variety, but the scheduling needs work.
    I really enjoy the chance to visit some other stadiums (this year I hit Sendai, Chiba, and Saitama).
    As someone who has Mondays free, the only positive in the scheduling is that I can catch some Monday games, which is quite nice, but I’d like to see interleague sprinkled around more through the year.
    It’s fun to see PL pitchers trying their damnedest to hit when they’re at Jingu (hoping we can see a few more wins, although it is already feeling better than last-year’s astounding streak of suck)

    Hopefully I’ll be able to attend this week vs the Igloos (I recommend you all listen closely to Rakuten’s “lucky 7” song, since they are clearly cheering for Inuit dwellings, and not birds of prey 😉