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Ron Roenicke: Interleague play is unfair

Jun 23, 2011, 9:12 AM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Getty Images

The Brewers look to be in a dogfight with the Cardinals in the NL Central all year. It’s hard enough to compete with the Cardinals, however, without being saddled with a tougher schedule. But a tougher schedule is what Milwaukee has, thanks to an interleague slate that includes trips to Boston and New York, a series against the Rays, and two series against the Twins for Milwaukee, while the Cardinals face Kansas City, Toronto and Baltimore.

In light of this imbalance, I have a hard time disagreeing with a thing Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said yesterday when asked about interleague play:

“It’s not fair. Interleague play is not fair. That’s all there is to it. I like interleague play. I think it’s really good. It’s good for the fans; I enjoy it as a coach and manager. I think the players enjoy playing different teams. So we all like it. The question is how in the world do we make this thing fair for everybody? That’s really difficult because of the different teams you have in different divisions. How do you divide those things up fairly for everybody? How do you do that?”

It’s probably too crazy to expect baseball to go back to purely balanced schedules given the gate and TV ratings brought by divisional rival games like the Yankees and the Red Sox. Such a state of affairs already means that teams competing for the wild card in different divisions have different schedules.  But compounding matters with schedules of radically different difficulty between teams competing for the same division is simply unacceptable, and Ron Roenicke has every right to complain about it.


  1. klwillis45 - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    You know what else is unfair: Watching your favorite team’s manager pinch hit Mark Kotsay for Jon Lucroy while Kottaras goes unused.

  2. yankeesfanlen - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    By degree, you’re dealing with some intangibles here. The Yankees are coming up on playing the Brewers and Rockies two good teams, then the Mets. The Red Sox have the Phillies, a really good team, then the Pirates and Astros.. This after the Yankees have battled the Reds, the Sox the Padres.
    With scheduling done many months ago there is obviously now exact way of knowing how a season will shake out, but there ar some historical records and even pre-season predictions that could be used as guidance.
    This is what I’ve said before about why interleague play: it disrupts the flow of the season for divisional reaces just as they’;re starting to get into high gear. Blows almost a month of the season, and the only benefit is getting the DL list down in numberI’d rather have the Red Sox in Baltimore, Tampa, or Toronto where I can keep an eye on them instead of Pittsburgh and Houston for attendance boosting.

  3. Jay Seaver - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Why’s it always the Yankees’ & Red Sox’ fault? Wouldn’t wanting more games with them have the owners spreading their games around to benefit all teams at the gate and local TV, rather than concentrating them in the division? The unbalanced schedule is more about keeping teams in their native time zone – not everything is about MLB favoring certain teams.

    • mikedi33 - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:54 AM

      St. Louis is also playing an extra series against the Phillies and one less interleague series. The Phils also always play the Red Sox. Yes any way you look at it inter league is unfair but the wild card is unfair too since the teams play an unbalanced schedule.

    • gemini1512 - Jun 23, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      “The unbalanced schedule is more about keeping teams in their native time zone ….”

      Which sucks for me being a Ranger fan, as the other teams in our division are 2 hours West of us. It is oftentimes brutal being a Rangers fan, trying to watch road games against Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle. Why aren’t the Rangers in the Central? It really makes zero sense to me. My son loves watching the games with me, but he can’t stay up that late.

      Same could be said for the Dallas Stars (all division rivals are on the West Coast).

      /sorry for the mostly off-topic rant.

      • Jay Seaver - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:18 PM

        Nah, it’s cool. The Rangers really do get screwed on this count, and I’m not sure how you could realign to make things better without expansion/franchise movement (Rays to the Pacific Time Zone, Texas to Central, Detroit to East?).

      • cggarb - Jun 29, 2011 at 10:02 PM

        Yes, the Rangers are truly screwed, playing in a four team division. Surely they’d be happier playing against 40% more division teams, like the Astros.

  4. FC - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Well, you could make the same divisions play each other in the same year, that would make the divisional races fair though the wild card is still a toss-up.

    • FC - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:51 AM

      I mean to say: AL East vs NL East for example. AL Central vs NL Central. The way the teams in your division play the same interleague opponents. But the wild card is up for grabs.

      • mikedi33 - Jun 23, 2011 at 9:57 AM

        The natural rivalries mess that idea up. If you have the Mets always playing the Yankees 6 times etc.. there never can be a fair schedule.

      • FC - Jun 23, 2011 at 11:28 AM

        Where does it get messed up? I think someone already wrote up a Proposal Craig posted a while ago that was pretty good. It does require divisional realignment to 5 teams per division though.

        18 games per Divisional opponent ( 72 total )
        6 games per Inter-league division opponent (all teams in your division play against the SAME interleague teams in the rival division ) ( 30 total )
        60 Games left to split between the remaining 10 teams in your league at 6 games a piece.

        This is actually pretty fair in general, only the wild card gets messed up but hey, the Wild Card should be harder to get, you really want to get the division crown anyway. And on the plus side: 3 game series all the way. No 2 or 4 game series which I find weird and unnecessary. You can play two series a week and one day off each week.

        The proposal also had rotating interleague divisional opponents every year. As said it still messes up the wildcard but you are guaranteed that your divisional rivals play the same exact opponents as you do all year long.

        In any case this schedule fairness is overblown, teams run into hot and cold streaks. At the beginning of April every team would have loved to beat up on Arizona but what about those teams that played them when they were red hot and climbed to 1st place? I’m sure they would have loved to avoid the Diamondbacks at the time.

  5. Andrew - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    I get what Roenicke is saying, but it’s also like arguing that it’s unfair for the Tampa Bay Rays to play the Red Sox and Yankees so many times every year while the Twins get the Royals and (previously bad) Indians.

    I’d like to see interleague expanded, but that’s not going to happen and people in opposition to me are going to argue about the “sanctity of earning a playoff spot” by playing fewer games against the teams in your respective league. Never mind the fact that MLB is the lone major sport where fans believe its a bad thing to be playing teams in the opposite league/conference, despite the fact of having the largest schedule.

  6. riverace19 - Jun 23, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Unfair is a word 6 year-olds use. Quit whining and play freaking baseball sheez. Embarassing for Roenicke and the Brewers.

  7. spudchukar - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Roenicke is right it isn’t fair, but as Stanley Morgenstern would be happy to tell you “Life isn’t Fair. It never has been and it never will be… The wrong people die… It is a terrible thing we tell our children…And it’s okay too, it is just as long as we don’t keep expecting things to even up before we die.”

    • natstowngreg - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      The thought occurs that the problem isn’t having divisions and interleague play; it’s geography. You know, that class you slept through, so you don’t know what the capital of Vermont is. Major sports markets are not distributed evenly throughout the country. Boston and New York share an AL division because they’re closest to each other. Meanwhile, the Texas teams, Seattle, Colorado and Arizona are isolated geographically, but someone needs to be in the same divisions with the Left Coast markets.

      If the problem is schedule imbalance, then the 15-team league idea might be a start. But you would have to tweak the interleague schedule to, for example, not have the Brewers play the Yankees and Red Sox in the same season. Instead, they might play the Yankees and Orioles or A’s. I would think the MLB schedulemaker could figure out some way to make it work.

      Ya know, I’m beginning to warm to the 15-team league idea a little…

      • jimbo1949 - Jun 23, 2011 at 8:07 PM


  8. icanspeel - Jun 23, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Every team strives to be the world series champ right? Seems to me that regardless of schedule a team that wants to be the champ should be able to win through their schedule. Besides there is a reason games are played, case in point, Padres took 2/3 from Boston, how many saw that coming?

  9. trevorb06 - Jun 23, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Really, it’s just luck of the draw. It’s the same in just about any sport. Take football, AFC teams who played the Minnesota Vikings last year knew they’d have a pretty good chance a a win even though somebody in their division would be playing the Bears or Eagles or… aw damn I don’t want enough football to know who’s good anymore. I just know my MN Vikings are bad. You get my point. The Brewers need to know that a truly good team can beat anybody. So if they’re a good team they should say BRING IT ON! :-)

  10. cggarb - Jun 29, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    Interleague play is godawful. The attendance boost is purely a result of the calendar – jeez, weekend series in June draw well? Must be because the Pirates have arrived in Baltimore!

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