Major League Baseball hasn’t publicly released the tentative schedule for the 2013 season, but it has shared it with teams and the players union. And that means some information about baseball in 2013 has leaked out, intentionally or otherwise. There’s some very good news for some teams and some “what, are you kidding me” news for other teams, if good and bad news is measured by the expected effect on attendance.
First, a few reminders about overall changes coming in 2013. With the Astros move to the American League West, there will be 15 teams in each league. Typically, every team plays on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with Mondays and Thursdays as travel and off days. That means most days of the season will see at least one interleague game. Fourteen National League teams will play each other. Same in the American League. The odd teams out in each league will play each other.
We’ve also heard rumblings that, with the addition of a second wild card, MLB will move to a more balanced intraleague schedule. The idea is that teams competing for the two wild card spots should be on relatively equal footing when it comes to strength of schedule. But the early news suggests that division rivals will continue to play more games against each other than against non-division teams in the same league.
The big headline on the 2013 schedule is news that the Yankees of the East and the Yankees of the West (formerly known as the Dodgers) will play each other in a four game home-and-home series: two games at Dodger Stadium, two games at Yankee Stadium. It will mark the first time the Dodgers have played at Yankee Stadium since the 1981 World Series. Yes, that’s right. Even though we’ve had interleague play since 1997, the Dodgers have never played an interleague series against the Yankees in New York. The AL East and NL West first hooked up in 2002, but the Dodgers missed playing the Yankees to fit in the series with “their natural rival,” the Angels.
The Dodgers hosted the Yankees for three-games series in 2004 and 2010. In 2004, those three games boasted the highest attendance at Dodger Stadium that season, save for the final game of the year against the Giants. The capacity at Dodger Stadium is 56,000, and the 2004 Yankees series averaged 55,080 in attendance per game. In 2010, the Dodgers reported attendance at each of the three Yankees games at exactly 56,000. The only game to reach that capacity mark was Opening Day. Giving the Dodgers a two-game series at home against the Yankees seems like a nice thank-you present from the league to the Dodgers’ new owners.
The seating capacity at new Yankee Stadium is 50,287. According to attendance information on Baseball-Reference, the Yankees haven’t had any regular-season sellouts since the new stadium opened in 2009. Not Opening Day. Not against the Red Sox or Mets. With the Dodgers’ New York roots, you’d have to imagine those two games will be sold out, if not very close. When the Giants, the other west coast team with historical roots in New York, played a three-game series at old Yankee Stadium in 2002, attendance averaged over 55,000 for each game. Sure, that Giants team featured Barry Bonds, but the 2013 Dodgers will have plenty of stars themselves. The Yankees will also host the Giants in 2013 if the tentative schedule holds. Those should also be sold out or near sold out games.
The NL Central will square off against the AL West, giving the Astros the chance to play against their former division foes. And those match-ups will get started right away, with the Reds hosting the Angels on Opening Day. That seen like an odd choice to kick off interleague play in 2013, but Reds fans are quite familiar with the Angels’ first baseman, who used to play for the division-rival Cardinals.
The Phillies, who led the majors in attendance in 2011 and remains in first this season despite the team’s poor record, gets no favors from the MLB schedule makers. After starting their season on the road in Atlanta, the Phillies return to Philadelphia for their home opener against . . . . the Royals. Of course! It makes so much sense. Well, there’s the Philadelphia-Kansas City-Oakland Athletics connection. Exactly. At least the Phillies get a four-game home-and-home series with the Red Sox, traditionally a huge draw on the road.
We’ll know more on expected winners and losers when the 2013 schedule is officially released, usually in mid-to-late September.