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Is a freeway series good for baseball?

Oct 14, 2009, 9:55 AM EST

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. adam henry - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    forget the snail races id rather watch your mom on cops again.

  2. Jeff P. - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    I’m with you on the public transportation issue. If they had a light rail or subway that went from the West Side to Chavez Ravine I would take it to every game. But because I’m nuts about baseball, I make arrangements to leave a bit earlier and nail down the short cuts to get into the park quicker. It’s a jungle out there!
    As far as Anaheim goes, I never go down for weeknight games unless I have the day off. It’s at least a 90-minute drive at rush hour.

  3. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:15 PM

    If you are going to look strickly at ratings the Yankees probably have the biggest fan base throughout the country of the rmaining 4 teams but an all LA series will draw only out in southern California. The higest road attendance though is the Chicago Cubs followed by the Yankees and the Dodgers. INterestingly the team wth the lowest road attendance is the Angels 30th out of 30.

  4. Michael - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    I’m also a transplanted Bostonian who arrived in L.A., and I happen to have lived right next door to Dodger Stadium for the last five years (so I can walk there and not have to pay the ever-increasing parking fee…YAY!). I can tell you the following things that I’ve found through personal observation about the Dodgers and their fans:
    1) The comments about Dodger fans being mostly working class are largely correct. Yes, celebs show up as well, but the vast majority of the fans are the locals.
    2) The traffic situation around the stadium is very real. There are unfortunately few outlets around the stadium to allow for the increase in overall traffic that has occurred here over the years. Yes, Dodger fans tend to be more fair-weather than say, Red Sox Nation, but the traffic problem is genuine…I see it every time I come home in the early evening when a game is on. Being a local, I know the back roads to get to my place, so I’m OK, but the poor guys who’re in their cars to go to the game often find the entrance arteries (like Sunset Blvd.) nearly paralyzed with cars. So I’m not surprised at all any more that there are those who leave early…more often than not it actually makes a good deal of sense.
    3) Baseball announcing will not be the same once Vin Scully retires after next season. We in the southland have been spoiled by having decades of something approaching joy listening to this man spin his art of words. Vin is the last of the old-school breed of legendary baseball announcers, and when he goes, his like will not come again.

  5. Kevin - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:24 PM

    Once they start the series, can we push California into the ocean and say bye-bye?

  6. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:27 PM

    You should see the traffic in the Bronx it isn’t a walk in the park. Plus the main crossing from NJ into NY is one of the most heavely traveled bridges in the country even with a game going on.

  7. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    Even without a game going on

  8. Geoff - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    Not to throw a curve, but it may be easier to take the 57 north to the 60 west and from there I5 to get from Anaheim to LA. Depends upon the time of day.

  9. DTRock78 - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    LA fans are a joke. I was absolutely stunned by the lack of filled seats during the World Series last year when I watch my Phils roll ‘em.
    The 1st and 2nd inning commercial break pan outs of the stadium showed an extremely large number of empty seats. Not to mention, I’ll never forget watching the people leave in droves up the damn ramps at the bottom of the 7th when they were down by 3, I couldn’t believe it!
    And don’t pull the traffic excuse card. Philly and New York aren’t exactly countryside strolls. What do we do if we’re fortunate enough to score a ticket to the World Series? We take off from work. For two days. One for the tailgating, the other for the hangover. Nuff said.

  10. Steve - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    As I Giants fan, I don’t know if I could stomach a freeway series…

  11. Doug - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    Spoken like a true East Coast jerk. With a personality like that, you must be a Boston or New York fan.. they’ve got an excess of lowlife jerks.

  12. IMissHK - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:49 PM

    Amen, bro. What a bunch of whiners.

  13. Janye - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:55 PM

    GO PHILLLIES!!!!!!!!!

  14. LakerLou - Oct 14, 2009 at 1:59 PM

    Although I live near the 405, please make it the I-5 Series. I think the folks in the urban core of LA would appreciate the nod. You hit the nail on the head when you said the networks will do the “California-style” coverage and emphasize the Hollywood thing. If we have a freeway series, pleae drive the I-5 and highlight what much of LA is really like, both gritty and laid back at the same time.

  15. Amy in SF - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    Did you have to bring that up?!
    And SoCAL residents, be careful what you wish for! NoCAL always wanted a bridge series, and we got it AND a 7.0 earthquake!

  16. Ladyfan - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:16 PM

    Really? I’m very surprised, as a member of Red Sox Nation, that the Red Sox isn’t among your top three in road attendance. But that doesn’t really factor into the discussion. I think in all honesty, it’s really only the fans of the teams involved who actually care enough to watch the World Series. I doubt many in either the Midwest or the East would watch a Freeway Series. But that should not be the only criteria, and I feel it’s unfair to try to play to other audiences, instead of scheduling the games when the fans of the actual teams involved will be home and can watch their team play. If I were a Dodger fan or an Angel fan, I would surely be unhappy with a 5:00 pm start . . . .have to miss the opening ceremonies? the beginning innings of the games? no, that would not be fair. So even though I’m a Red Sox fan, I have to say that the scheduling is unfair to the fams of the teams who have played so well all year, and have earned their right to play in the Series. And frankly, I do hope it IS a Freeway series, because of course I don’t want the Yankees to win! I think everyone else in baseball gets pretty tired of us playing the Yankees year after year after year . . . I’m sorry we didn’t make the Series, but that’s the way it goes. I would also like to see other games televised throughout the season besides Red Sox vs. Yankees . . .I can get those games on our Boston station. I’d love to see other teams play on the national stations, I’d get to see more players and more games that way.

  17. Bruce - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:38 PM

    What was all this bout I-405 series? You must mean a 495 series, right? On that point the important thing the Yankees learned in part this season while losing to the Phillies 2 out of 3 was….not to make excuses.

  18. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    Ladyfan Boston was 6th on the list when you sort it b road attendance. When you sort it by home attendance Boston is 2nd.
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/sort/awayPct
    I agree whole heartedly and as far as I am concerned in the division series the Phillies got the worst 2:00 and 10:00 starts. The big problem is the Networks and MLB do play it off as a National Event and you and I konw for the most part it isn’t. Last year witht the Yankees not in the playoffs I have to admit I followed the games in the news and online but didn’t watch that much. I so agree the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry is over kill to a lot of other markets but blame that on the unbalanced schedual. I am geting tired of Boston,Toronto,Tampa and Baltimore 18 games a year each but then again I am tired f the 6 games against the Mets as well. Regardless 10:00 starts for west coast games against east coast teams is not really in the fans interest either.

  19. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:45 PM

    Wouldn’t that be an I-95 series?

  20. Harry - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    Personally I’d like to see a Yankees-Dodgers series. It would be interesting on a lot of fronts:
    1) While it is the most common Series matchup (even after the move from Brooklyn to LA), it last happened 28 years ago, in 1981.
    2) You have BOTH of America’s biggest media markets involved
    3) The Yankees against Joe Torre in the World Series is an intriguing matchup in my view.
    The only reason I think Dodgers-Angels would be interesting is that L.A. is the only current or former 2 team market to never have both teams play each other in the series (I’m not counting Baltimore-Washington as a 2 team market here as they were both in the same league in that past version of that).

  21. BOHICA6 - Oct 14, 2009 at 2:59 PM

    A fan of baseball, while disappointed that his or her team did not make it to the World Series, will watch the World Series regardless of who is participating. A baseball fan wants to see great baseball. I’m no Yankees fan, but I will still watch them play the World Series if they make it. If you don’t like baseball, don’t watch it. If you don’t want to watch the World Series because your team isn’t in it, then don’t watch it. My teams are out. I will still watch the World Series, above any and all other shows (Think TiVo!) because I like baseball. It’s the sport that matters; not necessarily who is playing it.

  22. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:02 PM

    The only thing is the media would dwell on the Joe Torre – Yankees element to the point they would ruin the series.

  23. Ryan - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:06 PM

    405? Really? In traffic?
    Sorry pal, you were on the 22 near Anaheim, not the 405.
    Wow.

  24. Juan martinez - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    But since when do you guys think this is going to be a so called freeway series, you guys sound like Obama supporters, dont you guys forget that to get to that freeway, you first have a stop in the BRONX, And you might get a surprise

  25. Baseball-Fan - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    If this becomes a Highway series, I will tune this series out and turn to Football, Basketball and Hockey . I would rather see a cross country series between either the Phillies vs Angeles or Dodgers vs. Yankee’s. A Highway series IMHO would be big loser to Selig and MLB. Just look at how they handled the Phillies vs. Rockies games and made the defending WSC play a day game all because of ratings? Is it about the sport or the money anymore? Rhetorical question, as money is the answer.
    BTW…if there is a complaint about the weather as noted above “Last year’s ski-mask series between the Phillies and Rays was not a whole hell of a lot of fun” I think that is wrong. Look at the nationally televised parade that followed that game that was the largest ever for any sport. If you ask anyone that lives or is a Phillies fan, I doubt that anyone would say it was not fun.
    If weather is a problem, look at the idiot Selig again for not shortening the season. Want to avoid cold weather Word Series games? Shorten the season, eliminate inter-league play and go back to a two division league eliminating a wildcard. This will never happen, as the game of Baseball is not a game anymore and has not been for ages, but rather big business.
    Wasn’t there some guy wearing an opposing team jersey at Dodger stadium that was shot because he was a fan of the opposing team? I am not sure if that has ever happened in Philly or NY? Harassment,yes. but shooting someone? gang bangers of LA gotta love it!

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