Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the White Sox-Indians doubleheader in Chicago. Between witnessing a Mat Latos' dugout tantrum up close and sitting in the middle of Jason Kipnis' fan section (he grew up in Northbrook, IL), the seven hours I spent at the ballpark were well worth the vacation day and late night drive home. Although I may be biased because of the weather (sunny and 75) and company (my wonderful wife Kate and brother Kevin) I experienced on Monday, I am a strong advocate of doubleheaders. I am such a big fan of twin bills that I came up with a list of reasons why I think Major League Baseball should schedule more of them.
Scheduling a few doubleheaders for each team would make sense for owners, players, and the fans.
The primary reason doubleheaders have waned over the last few decades is money. In theory, two games in one day means far less revenue from tickets, parking, and concessions. However, I’m not so sure that’s true of every big league team. If you’re the Dodgers, yes, giving up two or three single games of 40,000 fans wouldn't be a smart financial decision. However, in the case of the White Sox (averaging 20,000 in 2016), a strategically placed doubleheader doesn’t necessarily mean Jerry Reinsdorf would have to give up thousands of dollars. If marketed properly, I think White Sox doubleheaders could draw in the neighborhood of 30,000 and bring in additional merchandise sales as fans mill around between games. And when a third of teams are drawing less than 25,000 fans per game in April and May, giving fans two games for the price of one doesn’t sound so risky.
More doubleheaders would mean more off-days for players. Of all major sports, MLB scheduling is by far the hardest on players. Have you ever stopped to consider the sheer number of games that position players log in their career? Cal Ripken Jr. played in over 3,000 games. For comparison's sake, Peyton Manning played in 266. Obviously, football is more dangerous and damaging to players' bodies than baseball. But in terms of scheduling, MLB could stand to give players two or three more off-days in their marathon season.
Now the one I really care about! Twin bills are great for fans. Even after watching 18 innings of somewhat sloppy baseball on Monday, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. It didn’t seem boring or time-consuming. Rather, it made me feel like I was getting a great return on my investment; seven hours of baseball for four hours of travel sounds like a proper ratio to me. What’s more, doubleheaders allow for more teaching moments and enjoyment of the ballpark. When you’re merely attending one game, you feel a tension between the two (do I really concentrate on the game or do I just enjoy the ballpark experience?). Not so with a doubleheader. Over the course of the two games, I was able to explain shifts, sacrifice bunts, bullpen use, and platoons to my wife, while also walking around the concourse to check out different areas of U.S. Cellular Field.
So what do you say, Commissioner Manfred? Let’s play two (more often)!