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Is a freeway series good for baseball?

Oct 14, 2009, 9:55 AM EDT

The Dodgers and Angels in the playoffs together for the third time in six seasons, but this is the first time they’ve both made it this far, so people are starting to buzz about the possibility of a freeway series. Given that the Yankees and Phillies don’t have any plans of simply rolling over and dying the freeway series could just as easily be an I-95 series as it could be a 405  an I-5 series (see updates below), but let’s consider the pros and cons of the California version of such a beast:

Pro: Weather.  Last year’s ski-mask series between the Phillies and Rays was not a whole hell of a lot of fun, and given that this year’s Classic is going to stretch into November, the odds of poor weather affecting a series played in either New York or Philadelphia or both is even greater.  It’s still summer in Los Angeles, however. Hell, it’s always basically summer there.  A freeway series means no rain or snow delays and no Elmer Fudd hats. Just baseball in the sunshine.

Con: Strangely enough, that sunshine.  Because of the imperative that every game of the Series be played in east coast prime time, a freeway series is going to be subject to a lot of long shadows and setting-sun glare.  All but one of the NLCS games are set to start at 5:07 p.m Pacific, and the World Series games would presumably start then too.  That will make it tough for guys to pick up the baseball in the first few innings, which would lead to a lot of pitchers’ duels. Personally I love pitchers’ duels, but that’s only when the guys are really dealing, not because the hitters are flailing at balls they can’t see.

Pro: Stereotype busting.  You know the story: East coast fans are intense and knowledgeable. West coast fans are arrive-late, leave-early dilettantes.  Only problem is that that characterization is completely untrue.  I’ve got a brother and some college friends who live out west and because of it I’ve been lucky enough to go to a great number of Dodgers and Angels games over the years. Sure, there are some folks with expensive seats down low in Dodger Stadium who seem more interested in being seen than watching the game, but no more so than the guys down in the legends suites in New York.  Once you get past those guys, you’ll find no more passionate or knowledgeable fans in baseball than you’ll find in Southern California. You remember the explosion from the Dodgers crowd after Gibson hit that dinger in 1988? It was no fluke. I was at a Dodger game two years ago where Olmedo freakin’ Saenz got the same kind of reaction following a walkoff job. ThunderStix or no ThunderStix, Anaheim gets positively raucous as well.  They love their baseball in Los Angeles, and a freeway series will give the national media a chance to show the rest of the national just how much they do.

Con: The national media will probably whiff on that, instead giving us the standard “it’s the World Series, California-style!” coverage. Lots of shots of Hollywood stars in the stands. Lots of skinny blond chicks holding beers and going “wooo!” No less than 50 commercial breaks lead in with that awful Randy Newman song.  Blah.

Pro:  New faces. We get the Yankees on national TV a hundred times a year.  We just saw the Phillies in last year’s World Series.  While no one really needs more Manny Ramirez coverage, the east coast and Midwest haven’t seen nearly enough Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales.  Fresh is good.

Con: Low ratings. Sure, L.A. is the second biggest media market in the country, but (a) it’s not as big as New York; and (b) neither the Dodgers nor the Angels have nearly the national fan base the Yankees have.  Will will two L.A. teams draw the kinds of eyes that a series involving the Yankees will draw?  My guess is no.  I don’t own FOX stock so the business implications of this aren’t tremendous, but a low-rated Dodgers-Angels series would probably mean even more Yankees-Red Sox games on national TV next year.  If that’s possible.

Personally I’d love to see a freeway series because it would be a unique matchup of interesting teams with large portions of the action played in daylight.  I’m not sure the rest of the nation feels that way though.  Ignoring the fact that, yes, it’s probably too early to talk about this yet, how do you feel?

UPDATE: Interesting point raised in the comments as to whether my picture should have been of an I-5 sign instead of an I-405 sign.  I’ll grant that the most direct route between the stadiums is I-5.  On the other hand, no one is really going to be driving between the stadiums in this series, are they?  All of the fans rich enough to afford World Series tickets — and the players themselves — probably live in wealthy West L.A. or the beach communities, no?  Wouldn’t 405 be a better option for those folks?  And at least according to Google Maps, the 1-5 route “in traffic” would take considerably longer than 405.

I really have to plead ignorance here. The times I’ve been to the Big A from Los Angeles, I took the 405, but I wasn’t the one doing the navigating.  Angelenos: give me your opinion in the comments.  If 1-5 is a truly better route from the parts of L.A. where actual World Series attendants are likely to live to Anaheim, I’ll change the signs.

UPDATE #2:  OK, I’m getting a lot of emails and stuff now and the overwhelming sentiment is that it has to be I-5, and if that’s the way the winds are blowing, let no one say I don’t also blow. I have changed it to I-5.  Which is probably for the best considering that the rest of the media will probably go with that too.  Of course, if the forces of 405 make a convincing case later in the day, I’ll change it back again, because I’m a spineless flip-flopper. 

  1. -z- - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:03 AM

    They arrive early and leave late – That’s not a prejudice just a simple fact and they do it in every section of the stadium, I’ve even seen them do it when a pitcher has a no hitter going – They may be passionate about their team but they’re passionate in their cars creeping out of the parking lot.

  2. Grant - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Man, I’d love to have playoff baseball start at 5 PM local time. It’d give me something to watch before prime time TV shows start. I could watch both The Office and playoff baseball! And without the Yankees involved the games might have a shot at being over in a timely manner (stupid patient lineups).

    Alas, I live on the East Coast, and so in addition to dealing with increasingly-cold NYC weather I must choose between baseball and TV (baseball, duh) and get to bed late during the World Series.

  3. Simon DelMonte - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    Ratings-wise, I will add that the Subway Series was a total bust. A Freeway Series would probably be worse, even if it would also be a lot more balanced than the Big Bad Yankees punishing my gutsy but outmatched wild card Mets all those years ago.

  4. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:37 AM

    I disagree with that as a substantial overstatement, Z. I’ve been to numerous Dodgers games. Yes, some leave early, but in my experience it has been nowhere near a mjority of the people.
    Indeed, one of my favorite experiences in a baseball stadium came during a Dodgers’ game in 2007. It was a Friday night game that went extra innings. I was in the upper deck down the leftfield line. The section was packed — cheap seats, lots of working class fans that allegedly never come to the Stadium — and they (a) cheered loud; (b) cheered smart; and (c) stayed until the walkoff home run in the bottom of the 10th.
    Maybe the high rollers leave early, but they only represent a small portion of the crowd.

  5. Jeff - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    It would be the 5 freeway, not the 405!

  6. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:50 AM

    I’ll grant that the most direct route between the stadiums is I-5. On the other hand, no one is really going to be driving between the stadiums in this series, are they? All of the fans rich enough to afford World Series tickets — and the players themselves — probably live in wealthy West L.A. or the beach communities, no? Wouldn’t 405 be a better option for those folks? And at least according to Google Maps, the 1-5 route “in traffic” would take considerably longer than 405.
    I really have to plead ignorance here. The times I’ve been to the Big A from Los Angeles, I took the 405, but I wasn’t the one doing the navigating. Everyone: give me your opinion: If 1-5 is a truly better route from the parts of L.A. where actual World Series attendants are likely to live to Anaheim, I’ll change the signs.

  7. Jim - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:51 AM

    405? Really, how can you write an entire, apparently well-researched article and get the headline wrong? Jeff’s right, it’s the 5.

  8. Gordon - Oct 14, 2009 at 11:58 AM

    Right on, Jeff. Once I saw that 405 freeway sign at the top of the page I thought WTF? Who drives from Disneyland to Burbank that way?

  9. ChaCha - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:05 PM

    I-5 no doubts, not even a question.

  10. Lisa - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Gotta be the 5, it’s the only freeway that links the two and it has the exits you can use to get to both stadiums (Katella for Angels, Stadium Way for Dodgers). Besides the 405 is way worse in traffic and then you’ll just be stuck on another freeway to go East and actually get to either stadium.
    Most fans don’t live on the West Side either. That may be where the big money is, but not the fans. I don’t think there are very many Angels fans in LA county at all, and a huge number of Dodger fans are regular, working class folks who just love the team. Lots of them have mini season packages which will allow them to buy tickets to the game, although not in the “tv viewable” section or with “stereotypical look” if FOX goes Hollywood as you predict.

  11. AW - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    I personally have waited my entire life for a FWY series. My father as well, but he won’t be able to see it because he is no longer with us. Even when he was dying he rooted his Angels on. So for you
    to say “Z” that there is no passion in the west coast fans all I have to say is that this is passion at its greatest and for the record my father stayed at every game he went to until the last out was made even if his team us down 10-0 because he always said “Alot can happen when a team is down to it’s last out”…The Angels and Dodgers might not both make it the World Series but I have to congratulate them for making it this far and one series closer to a FWY series. Especially the Angels who have had to overcome many obstacles just to make it this far… Go ANGELS!

  12. J - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    It’s the I-5 and no Angeleno would take the I-405 to go between stadiums. Both Dodger and Angel stadium are located right off the I-5. Please change the sign.

  13. Ossie - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:20 PM

    Most angels fans live in Orange County. You will have to take the 5 freeway or the 57 freeway to get to the stadium. I’ve been to New York and Boston and Chicago for games and yes they are pationate but a series between Angels and Dodgers is as pasionate as any. It even will divide families here in Southern California. Specialy in Orange county where most of the Angel fans live and are still angry at being called the Los Angeles angels and not the Anaheim Angels as they rightfully should be called. It’s impossible to get tickets to a preseason or regular season Angels Dodgers series Imagine the prices for world series tickets!

  14. Daniel - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    Couple things, Craig. One, the posters above me are right – the I-5 is the way to go. Not only does it directly link the stadia, but the 405 is WAY out of the way. Sure, you can generally use it to get from LA to OC, but it won’t take you anywhere near either stadium. And no, most Angel fans are NOT in the beach cities. There are certainly a decent number there, but there are far more in north OC and even in the Inland Empire.
    And as for the shadows, it might be a slight issue the first couple games, but the time changes on October 31, which will eliminate the shadows problem for the rest of the series.
    Also, thanks for the love for us West Coast fans. We are certainly passionate about baseball out here and it would be nice if people knew about it.

  15. Ossie - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    Yes that is right. We will allways remember game six of the 2002 series. Six outs away down four runs and the monkey came out!!! Angel stadium is seldon empty since then. And the nice thing about it is that its mostly kids who go to those games and they do stay till the end.

  16. IdahoMariner - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:30 PM

    re: the ratings being used to rationalize showing more lame boston-new york games being televised
    I can’t help but think that the probable air-time of the west coast games just feeds this. People on the west coast aren’t off work at 5, they are on their way home. I grew up in LA, and we didn’t see dad until 6 or 630, because he was stuck in traffic (on the 405!)…so, unless everyone skips work early, at least the first hour or so is going to be missed by everyone from san diego to seattle. And the people on the east coast have to wait until 8 pm for the game, so even the ones who are interested will likely drop off after a bit or just won’t watch because they got distracted by other things by the time the game came on… The networks are already anticipating that the east coast won’t watch, so write them off. Play the games at regular game time, see what the ratings are REALLY like on the west coast, when the game is played at a reasonable hour for west coast viewers. It’s the network’s own damn fault if they can’t figure out how to market a series this compelling, and just default to Manny, the skinny blondes and that damn song.

  17. Ossie - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:34 PM

    They should be played at their regular time. Not five, maybe six. Anyway wasn’t one of the postseason games in 2000 played at 8:00 pacific time. I believe it was the mets game. It takes almost an hour to get into the stadium as it is. Now imagine trafic during rush hour? At least you could watch the Angels game from the 57 freeway.

  18. bigcatasroma - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    All you SoCalers can relax ’bout your numbers, ’cause it’s gonna be an I-95 Series . . .

  19. Jeff P. - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:41 PM

    I’m a New England native who’s been out here since ’82, and I finally know why L.A. fans arrive late and leave early (more prevalent at Dodger Stadium, and in ALL sections). They do not treat the game as a drama with a beginning, middle and end, but as a social event, a party. And how do you approach a cool party? You arrive late, and you leave early. Beating traffic is an absurd excuse. They have bad traffic everywhere.
    And the 5 is correct. Only far West Siders take the 405 and then across on the 22 to Anaheim.

  20. TT - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    Baseball is a joke. I rather watch snail races.

  21. Tbone - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:49 PM

    I challenge everyone to try and get to a baseball on time in L.A. Somehting like 1 to 2 million people come into the L.A. basin everyday for work! Public transportation sucks! So if you wanna make a game ontime you have to leave like 3hrs before first pitch which is normally at 7. This means you have leave work early. Try tellin ur boss u gotta leave work early cause traffic is gonna be bad going to the Dodger or Angel game. See if you still have a job in this economy after telling ur boss that.

  22. Ossie - Oct 14, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    A few people do treat it like a social event. But not the mayority. Public transit is the worst here. Anaheim Stadim at least has the train station in the parking lot and a lot of people do go to the game on train. Granted is nothing like back east, but it is something. Dodger stadium on the other hand is in the worst location for trafic and without a hint of public transit, not even buses. And you cannot walk to the stadium because its on a hill. Besides you could get mugged if you do that.

  23. Jim - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:02 PM

    My opinion from the Midwest, now that both of our teams are out of it: I’m glad the Angels got rid of the Red Sox. Here, in middle America, we’re sick of hearing of the Yankees and Red Sox as if they are the only two teams that matter in baseball. I would LOVE a “Freeway series” compared to having it on the East Coast.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been out to the East Coast, and I love the fans’ dedication to the game out there. But I’m just sick of hearing about two teams, specifically, in the national media over and over.
    Plus, I’m a White Sox fan, and I want to see Jim Thome have his shot at getting a World Series ring.

  24. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:07 PM

    Simon the Subway Series in NY wasn’t a total bust, the lowest rated series still is last year followed 07 Boston-Colorado and by 06 St.Louis – Detroit and 05 with Chicago-Houston.

  25. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    Jim the Yankees haven’t been in the World Series since 2003 you make it sound like they have been there every year. Looks like Boston and St. Louis have the edge for most series in the last 5 years.

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