Are Natural Rivalries Being Diminished?

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB schedule makers decided that it would be best to remove a key weekend series that many Twins fans looked forward to every year. That sucks.

For a three year stretch starting in 2010 and going to 2012, my friends would always do a road trip to Milwaukee to watch the Twins at Miller Park. They'd load up in the car and leave early on a Friday to make it in time to the first game, then they would pretty much drink and see the town for the whole weekend before returning to Minnesota late on Sunday. Every year, they talked in earnest about the trip and how they couldn't wait for it, and then after they returned, they'd rave about how much fun they'd had in the place once called worse than Hell.

The first year, I wasn't aware of the trip and did not go. The second year, I was polite and didn't try to force my way in, hoping that now that I was closer with this group, I'd be invited. I was not extended an invite and did not go. The third year, I felt a bit miffed that no one had asked yet if I wanted to go, so I gave in and requested if I could join.

I did not go.

According to my friends, including me would mean having to bring a second car, something none of them were willing to do. Also, apparently my driving had been graded as "snail-like" and thus no one would tolerate having to ride in a car in which I was the driver. Who knew that going 5 MPH over the speed limit was still too slow?

It was now 2013, and I was sure that I'd finally get to go this year. One of the friends had disappeared off the map and I thought I could replace him on the trip.

However, there was no Milwaukee trip.

2013 marked the year that MLB finally evened up the American and National Leagues by moving the Houston Astros from the NL Central to the AL West, giving both leagues 15 teams. This change meant that interleague, once a novelty reserved for two stretches in late spring and midsummer, would now be happening constantly throughout the season.

To accommodate the scheduling change, the "natural rivals" series that occurred every year would be modified. No longer would the teams be playing 3 home games and 3 away at different points of the season, but rather they would be playing a 4-game home-and-home series. Basically, exactly what the Twins and Brewers are doing this week with two games in Milwaukee, followed immediately by two games at Target Field.

Why did the 2013 Milwaukee road trip not happen? First, because the home-and-home series was in May. Second, it was in the middle of the week, with the first game on Monday the 27th, and the series concluded on Thursday the 30th.

Now, the Twins did sweep all four games, but that was little consolation for many fans. My friends and I weren't the only ones that didn't get to go to Milwaukee because the games weren't on a weekend. Because of the home-and-home series, the Twins and Brewers are losing out on quite a few fans simply because of the scheduling.

In the grand scheme of things, this change really doesn't matter much for the organizations. Losing 10,000 fans over an entire season won't make much of a difference. However, it hurts the fans far more because they can't make the trek to see their natural rival again. At least, not if they want to see their home team playing at the same time.

It's not only the Twins and Brewers that are hurt by losing the weekend series. Here are the other teams that have their home-and-home series in the middle of the week.

Orioles vs. Nationals: June 7-10 (Monday - Thursday)

Yankees vs. Mets: May 12-15 (Monday - Thursday)

Red Sox vs. Braves: May 26-29 (Monday - Thursday)

Rays vs. Marlins: June 2-5 (Monday - Thursday)

Blue Jays vs. Phillies: May 5-8 (Monday - Thursday)

White Sox vs. Cubs: May 5-8 (Monday - Thursday)

Royals vs. Cardinals: June 2-5 (Monday - Thursday)

Tigers vs. Pirates: August 11-14 (Monday - Thursday)

Indians vs. Reds: August 4-7 (Monday - Thursday)

Twins vs. Brewers: June 2-5 (Monday - Thursday)

Athletics vs. Giants: July 7-10 (Monday - Thursday)

Rangers vs. Rockies: May 5-8 (Monday - Thursday)

Angels vs. Dodgers: August 4-7 (Monday - Thursday)

Astros vs. Diamondbacks: June 9-12 (Monday - Thursday)

Mariners vs. Padres: June 16-19 (Monday - Thursday)

You'll quickly notice that every single one of these occur on the same days of the week, a far cry from the weekend series we used to see. Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN has a suggestion where MLB moves these games to a Thursday through Sunday, but I think there are two main reasons why MLB would be reluctant to do so.

First, whether it's because it's easier or because it's tradition, MLB has a certain way of making a schedule. Series are always two, three, or four games long. They almost always start on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. They almost always end on Sundays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays. Off days are almost always Mondays and Thursdays, with the exception of the early Tuesday or Wednesday off day to accommodate a possible rain-out of a home opener. For as long as I can remember, it's been this way, and I doubt MLB would want to change it.

The second is likely because of a simply courtesy to organizations. I'm sure the Twins would be upset if the Brewers hosted their half of the home-and-home on Saturday and Sunday while the Twins were given Thursday and Friday. The schedule makers would probably see it fit to just avoid the headaches and give everyone midweek games as the "least worst" option.

In lieu of this, I propose three possible solutions to give the fans back their weekend series with their natural rivals.

1) Use Zulgad's Thursday through Sunday proposal, but alternate which team gets the Saturday and Sunday games every year.

This is not the best option I'm about to suggest, but it would hopefully keep things fair if no other solution would work. However, I think the next two are much better.

2) Do away with the home-and-home series and give each team a two-game Saturday and Sunday series.

I feel this is not the worst option, but it's certainly the least-likely option. When's the last time MLB had a two game series (excluding overseas games like Japan and Australia) that were entirely on the weekend? Probably never.

3) Just give each team their three game weekend series again.

Basically, return to how the schedule was before the Astros moved to the American League. Right now, teams have an unbalanced schedule, which means that they play 19 games against each of their division rivals, but only 6-9 against teams from the rest of their respective league, and only three or four against select teams in the opposite league. I'd get rid of one or two of those 19 games against the division rivals and use that to add in the two games necessary to turn the four game home-and-home into two separate three game series.

Basically, I just want to see the Twins in Milwaukee someday.

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