This year has to be the most highly anticipated interleague session since the experiment began in 2005 as one of the owners’ concessions to settle the 2004 players’ strike.
From 2005 to 2019, the PL has a 1,098-966 record.
Through 2020, media people asked, “What makes PL teams better in interleague?” Since last winter, that has changed to, “What makes PL teams better, period.”
Related research and essays
What changed? After eight straight Japan Series losses by the Yomiuri Giants to the SoftBank Hawks over two autumns, it began to dawn on a lot of people that the CL hasn’t won a Japan Series since 2012, and has once in 10 years.
A brief review
When it started in 2005, CL teams seemed to see interleague as an insult, and beneath their dignity. The Chunichi Dragons are probably the worst case. The ownership moved a lot of interleague games out of Nagoya Dome and into smaller regional parks, perhaps to show how attendance dropped against PL teams.
Their manager, Hiromitsu Ochiai, didn’t have a good thing to say about them and his players didn’t seem overly concerned with the challenge heading into their first 36 games. I don’t know that those things are connected, but the public stance gave players the option of letting up on the gas.
One of the CL’s premier teams in 2005, the Dragons got their butts kicked. A team that went 64-45-1 against CL teams went 15-21 against the PL.
|Years||PL Wins||PL Losses||PL Win Pct.|
Under pressure from the CL, the interleague schedule has gone from 36 games, two three-game home-and-away series against each of the six opposing league’s teams, to 24 games, two two-game, home-and-away series, to 18 games, in which teams play their three-game series against each opponent, hosting three of those and playing the other three on the road.
This past week, however, I discovered some Youtube programs in which former players talked about the gap between the leagues, and in general, their solution to the CL weakness.
They agreed that PL pitchers are much more dominant in the zone and that CL hitters have struggled to adjust. Their suggestions:
- Adopt a DH, if not for the whole season, then for all interleague games, to force CL teams to adapt to the DH like they will in the postseason.
- Increase the number of interleague games, because the only way to get used to the quality of PL pitching is to see more of it.
This last comment is almost predictable because it follows the historic pattern of CL advocates laughing their heads off at every PL experiment, ridiculing it as stupid and harmful to the game, before adopting those that work.
The CL hated interleague, didn’t want it, but attendance is growing in those games every year to the point where there’s virtually no difference between those contests and league games, and I expect that before long, the Giants, the staunchest enemies of interleague play from Day 1, will push for more games because they believe it will make them better and improve their profit margin.