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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. TommyOC - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:21 PM

    1) Traffic: Dodger Stadium resides in a ravine – surrounded by hills. There is one way in, one way out. With no public transit option, those 40,000+ fans take their 20,000-30,000 cars to and from the game. As a child, I remember spending over an hour traveling couple miles from the parking lot to the freeway. I guarantee Boston and New York do not have such concerns.
    Anaheim Stadium is immediately adjacent to the 57 Freeway. That connects to all points south, north, east and west within a 1 mile radius.
    2) The I-5 cuts right through downtown LA and Anaheim. All east/west freeways connect with it.
    3) Culture. You guys are spending a lot of time bashing LA Dodger fans. If they were really that crummy, they wouldn’t be leading the ENTIRE LEAGUE in attendance this year!! (1. Dodgers, 2. Yankees, 3. Phillies, 4. Cards, 5. Angels)
    This is especially interesting because while the Yanks have a new shrine, the Dodgers are playing in a 50-year old stadium. The metropolitan area extends 60 miles inland from the shore, so to suggest only West LA people attend Dodgers games ignores the majority of their attendees – people who live *east* and *north* of LA (the Angels dominate *south* of LA, esp in Orange County).
    Last I checked, the Yankees were having trouble selling their own season seats. So don’t get hypocritical when a $20 ticket holder jumps the gun and decides to bail a little early.
    4) Ratings. Who cares? I know many East Coast folks didn’t care for the 2002 World Series between the Angels and Giants, but when you ask *actual* experts what the most exciting series in the last decade was, they’ll point to ’02. Why? An extraordinary amount of runs scored (one team scored double digits in 6/7 games), a large number of home runs, and a Game 6 that will go down in history as one of the most exciting ever played.
    Who cares about ratings when you can have good baseball? (And yes, the Dodgers and Angels can provide good baseball.)

  2. Jason - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:22 PM

    Even though I’m a Rockies fan, I’m hoping for an all-LA Series. And I say start the games at 7 p.m Pacific time. Forget the East Coast. I’m sick to death of their whining about start times and everything being about them — even when they’re not in it. Let the local fans go to and tune into the games at times that are normal for them.
    The World Series usually isn’t an event of national interest anyway because a) a small-market team nobody has heard of is playing in it, or b) because the Yankees or Red Sox are in it, and most of us are sick of seeing them on ESPN all year anyway (speaking of New York bias in general, has anyone noticed how all of ESPN’s shows on Monday and Tuesday led with Dolphins-Jets MNF instead of a baseball PLAYOFF game?).
    Let the local fans enjoy the fruits of their home teams’ labors (and the bitter East Coasters can go back to their griping and whining about living in their awful cities).

  3. dcf44 - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:23 PM

    Agree 100% Love of the sport is what makes it special. Not the shirts playing, the player wearing the shirt may not be wearing that color next season.

  4. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:42 PM

    If this was pre 1969 I would agree the best is the best, even pre 1995 you could still argue that point but with a wild card and 2 series to get there, the best doesn’t always show up. How many Super Bowls have been duds but they were the best.

  5. Ian - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    I agree. This is hands down the most intriguing story line in baseball. Imagine Torre coming back to Yankee Stadium to face off against them. It’s like something out of a movie. That said, we can talk all day until we are blue in the face, but there is a reason they play the games. I’m looking forward to some great LCS games.

  6. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    I do watch as many games as I can during the regular season and there are some matchups that are good and some that are boring. TO take your logic further every World Series should be exciting but lets face it not ever matchup is. There were years when the Division Series or the League Championship Series were better the the World Series. 2003 the ACLS was way more intense and exciting then the World Series, 1995 the Division Series between Seattle and NY was the most intense series that year. Not all World Series are that good and some times it does come down to the teams.

  7. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    I agree however the media will end up over playing it.

  8. Miriam - Oct 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

    I agree with Jason…..I am sooooo tired of the East Coast dictating the start times of the games!!! The time should be set by the local teams to benefit their local fans. I would have loved to have attended the NDLS between the Dodgers and the Rockies, but the second game started at 3:07 P.M.!!! Sure, there were empty seats in the stands…there were even tickets still for sale on the Dodgers web site…people were still at WORK!!! And don’t get me started on the Rockies-Phillies nightmare in the snow! Why didn’t TBS/Selig move up the time into the vacated Dodgers/Cardinals time slot? There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for those two teams to have been playing in 20 degree weather!! I am a Dodger fan, thru and thru, and drive from north of Bakersfield (approx. 2 1/2 hr. drive)to attend several games a year. Depending on traffic for a 7:10P.M. start time, I am sometimes one of those people who arrives in the 2nd inning. But remember, we have the great Vin Scully making the call for the first three innings. We maybe stuck in our cars, but we are still “there in the stands” with Vin’s wonderful descriptions!!

  9. PhillyPhan - Oct 14, 2009 at 4:16 PM

    Miriam, why blame the East Coast? Blame the idiots such as Selig and MLB. Not sure why your dumping this on a geographic location? It is not like us Philly fans wanted day games during the work week. But as I have done since the NL playoff’s in the days of Danny Ozark and the 70’s Phillies up until now…I take off work and go to the game if I have a ticket or else listen on the radio/cell phone today.
    The made the Phillies games afternoon games and yet made the Colorad hosted games a late afternoon/early evening games?? I guess that is the East Coast doing that as well?
    Regardless of who makes it to this series finals, I will watch it and maybe I will have to DVR it.
    I just don’t get some of these posts in blaming a geographic location of the country for the times games start? Why not blame your team owners that all have a say in this be it left or right coast. And if you want to blame someone, write MLB and Selig himself. if that wont work, just send a self addressed post card to “East Coast” c/o MLB subject: stop ruining Baseball!!! and people say the East Coast people are whiners

  10. PhillyPhan - Oct 14, 2009 at 4:36 PM

    Not to drone on about this East Coast dicating crap, but if I remeber correctly, last years World Series games had been delayed for a monumentally dumb late starting timesstart time of 9PM EST so that the West Coast could tune in?
    If it were a prime-time TV series and not the World Series, it might be in danger of being canceled.

  11. bh0673 - Oct 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM

    Forget the east coast dictating times, if an east coast team is in is it fair the games should start at 10:00 basically making it almost impossible for most working people to be able to watch and still get up for work. You mean to tell me you can’t start a game at 6:00 west coast time at least giving a fair break to both coasts. The Yankee playoff games against Minnesota started at 6:00 EST and although it was tought to get to the game Friday I was still able to do it. Phillies fans did get the worst of it and considering their team is the current World Champs it just shows that MLB and the Networks don’t care really care about the fans on either coast.

  12. Miriam - Oct 14, 2009 at 4:57 PM

    Nice post concerning the logistics of Dodger Stadium. While it is truely the most beautiful park in all of baseball…..I love watching the setting sun behind the hills and palm trees….getting in and out of the park hasn’t changed much since it was opened in 1962. Some modifications have been tried in order to make you park near the gate you enter/exit, rather than park near your seats. Lots of people protested this change until they realized they could change the gate they enter simply by arriving by a different freeway. Although Dodger Stadium is in a ravine with only one way in and out, that way in and out connects with several freeways north/south/east/west.

  13. angels4ever - Oct 14, 2009 at 6:06 PM

    screw the east coast, for too long we’ve had to put up with this east coast bias. GO ANGELS

  14. Randy - Oct 14, 2009 at 6:08 PM

    Leaving early: Fans do this. Always have, always will. The only time I left early is when I was triple parked on Opening Day. Should of got there earlier to get a better park spot.
    That said, I was at Game 1 of the 1988 WS. 4-3 A’s in the eighth. I observed no less than 5,000 people leave that game early, tail lights in the parking lot when Gibson came to bat.
    Do you think any of those who left early would ever admit that they were in their cars? Of course not. Their line from that, “it’s not over ’til it’s over” day forth would be, “I was there.” Signed, Traffic jam w/no regrets.
    Bonus: Vin Scully would be on the air ’til November. That’s reason enough!

  15. Randy - Oct 14, 2009 at 6:13 PM

    Leaving early: Fans do this. Always have, always will. The only time I left early is when I was triple parked on Opening Day. Should of got there earlier to get a better park spot.
    That said, I was at Game 1 of the 1988 WS. 4-3 A’s in the eighth. I observed no less than 5,000 people leave that game early, tail lights in the parking lot when Gibson came to bat.
    Do you think any of those who left early would ever admit that they were in their cars? Of course not. Their line from that, “it’s not over ’til it’s over” day forth would be, “I was there.” Signed, Traffic jam w/no regrets.
    Bonus: Vin Scully would be on the air ’til November. That’s reason enough!

  16. Jaime - Oct 15, 2009 at 2:42 AM

    I live in Germany, I watch the World Series and baseball during the season at 2AM. What do you have to say now?

  17. schwiegs - Oct 15, 2009 at 3:15 AM

    The traffic argument doesn’t hold water. NY & Philly & Boston have the same issues with leaving after the game, every big city does. Suck it up or take mass transit.
    Weather…agreed, I wish the playoffs didn’t go until November in the north or east…but that’s what you get with this wild card B.S.
    Fans…I don’t know anything about L.A. fans except I hate thundersticks and rally monkeys!!! It’s childish and it makes you look like amateurs. Knock it off!
    Why is the Yankees/Red Sux coverage such a big deal and gets so much press?!??! 90 years of rivalry and the ability to bring the best players in the game to a national audience while drawing tons of revenue for advertisers, baseball and teams, that’s why. And it you don’t wanna watch the lousy network coverage (cause network announcers mostly s@ck) throw on your local teams network and watch that game.
    How about some day games?!? I mean, kids don’t even get to see full games anymore ’cause they’re going well past their bedtimes.

  18. Andrew - Oct 15, 2009 at 9:48 AM

    I guess everybody on this board agrees to disagree concerning what’s wrong with baseball and the world series in particular. It’s kinda like politics, where some people will be happy, and others will be angry. Can’t please everyone all the time. My biggest issue with baseball today is interleague play as a whole. Part of the world series “mystique” if you will, is having a team from the National League play a team from the American League of which neither team has played each other before. To me, that was the most exciting aspect of the world series. Not knowing much about the other team, what kind of strategies would the managers play out to win?? Also, with the American League using the DH, how would the National League utilize players for their version of the DH?? Interleague play has watered this down because teams that might be playing each other in the world series have played each other during the season (exception might be Angels-Phillies, or Yankees-Dodgers). So the mystique isn’t there anymore. I also think the interleague games lengthen the season. Baseball needs to go back to it’s roots with teams playing within their own league except for the all-star game and world series. The only exception could be what the Cubs and White Sox did for many years: have one or two games against each other a year for charity.

  19. John A. - Oct 15, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    I was in Anaheium Stadium for its opening day – my 16th birthday. I managed its “German specialties” concession stand while I was in college (sauerbraten and Polish sausage!). Later I lived in Burbank and Echo Park and went to hundreds of Dodgers games.
    The I-5 is absolutely the way people go to both stadiums, from all over – whether Bakersfield up north or from Laguna Beach down south (yeah, they take the 405 to a cutoff across to the I-5). there are a number of points to get into the two parks that cut down onf some of the worst traffic, but the best solution by far is to arrive early and park where your favorite quick exit route is quickly accessed after the game. (Hint at Dodger Stadium – go out by way of the Echo Park area exit.)
    I now live in Florida and have no way to go to these games, but the observation that a Freeway World Series would bring disdain from Easterners is absolutely true. both teams have more fans out this way than you might think, but there is virtually no coverage of their games and often the scores are in the paper two days later because of deadline times for Eastern publications.
    If Easterners a while back got all het up about a “Subway Series” in new York, then why NOT get all excited now about a “Freeway Series” in Southern California? It would be GREAT!

  20. comeonman - Oct 15, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    My only problem with a Freeway series is the
    Yankees or Mets will not be participating 😦
    If it happens, GREAT………
    NYC had it’s SUBWAY SERIES…….SO WHY NOT …….
    Yankees will play Dodgers in the Series, I THINK……
    Yankees will win # 27
    have fun and go craZy …………

  21. comeonman - Oct 15, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    I second that and STOP the home field being
    given to the ALLSTAR GAME WINNER ,,,,

  22. comeonman - Oct 15, 2009 at 11:11 AM

    I second that and STOP the home field being
    given to the ALLSTAR GAME WINNER ,,,,

  23. Jeff - Oct 15, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    I think the main reason why people have the impression that Southern California fans arrive late and leave early is because of the ridiculous traffic. I’ve gone to games at both stadiums, and getting there is simply a nightmare. Fans in many cities can take the subway to their stadium, but in LA there isn’t a good way to get there without dealing with grueling traffic. After suffering in tough traffic to get to a game, if it’s a blowout many fans just want to leave so they don’t have to deal with the crowd again. That being said, I do not think fans here would leave an important or tight game.

  24. Daniel - Oct 15, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    Well, if it’s a shutout game like 4-0 then you can’t blame the LA fans for leaving early. The 110 and the 5 are horrendous when there’s a home game.
    Personally, however, I’ve learned that it ain’t over ’till it’s over!! We saw that last week in the division series with BOTH LA teams rallying in the 9th!
    Now if anyone saw that Dodgers game, tell me…with the score as it was with two outs how many fans stayed? Did you hear that roar when Loretta hit that ball? What wasn’t shown on tv was how many fans stayed AFTER THE GAME ENDED! LA fans love their teams and can be no doubt about it.
    Now is a freeway series good for baseball? Probably not. With minimal national coverage mlb may suffer financially

  25. Angeldude - Oct 15, 2009 at 1:00 PM

    Let me just say that I couldnt care less about Fox’s ratings. I dont care if the rest of the world doesnt want to watch the World Series between the Angels and Dodgers. Baseball isnt about ratings, its about pride for the players and the fans of the team that win the series. I watched ever game of the series last year even though the Angels got slaughtered in the ALDS. Poor sportsmanship is pathetic. If no one wants to watch it in the rest of the country so be it. All I know is CA will be GOING OFF, Im going to game 3 of the ALCS and Game 6 of the Series (if they get there), and the environment here will be like none other. Let the rest of the world go back to work and sulk about it, because the Angels are taking it this year baby!

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