Thoughts on Interleague Play
We’re finishing up this year’s inter-league schedule this week on the road. While the Twins haven’t had the success this year that they enjoyed last year against the National League teams, it should give Twins fans a chance to reflect on the concept and ponder any modifications that can be made if it’s going to continue at all. First, it’ll be here for better or worse. Baseball doesn’t adopt ideas into the system only to disown them later…witness the designated hitter, perhaps the subject of a future blog.
When baseball started interleague play, it was done so to spark fan interest and increase ticket sales and media ratings. By and large, it’s done all that. While the novelty of it has worn off, there still is heightened fan interest in a Cubs/White Sox series than a Royals/White Sox series. But baseball made a big blunder in playing the games by the home team’s rules. If you’re going to blur the distinction between the leagues by playing the games in the first place, why not give the fans a sample of how the games are played in the other league. If the concept was designed for the fans in the first place, give them the novelty of watching their pitchers hit or their top pinch-hitter hit as the designated hitter. It would be a simple fix and one that is long overdue. People live in houses for ten years and then remodel. Consider this a ten year tuneup or remodeling of an idea that could use a little shot in the arm.
The other modification would further complicate the scheduling. Somehow, you have to maintain the integrity of a division race by having teams in the same division play the same inter-league schedule as much as possible. The New York Mets have to play the Yankees in two series and the other three AL playoff teams from a year ago AND the Angels, the team with the second best record in the American League. The Phillies have a much easier schedule playing only two teams with winning records. As I blog, the Phillies are just two games behind the Mets in the NL East. By season’s end, the division might be decided not by who had the better team but, rather, by the whimsy of the schedule makers. While the Mets were facing the defending AL champion Tigers last week, the Phillies were playing the Royals. Seem fair to you? No one here can muster any sympathy for any large market team, but fairness shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to deciding a championship. There are enough uneven playing fields in our game…this is one that should be eliminated.
On the whole, I like interleague play. It gave Atlanta fans in the Upper Midwest a chance to see their team in person. As we forge ahead, the concept is like any other. It can be tinkered with and made even better.An interesting interleague note as we watch our Twins pitchers hit this week. The Twins are one of five American League teams whose pitchers have not hit a homerun in interleague play. The Yankees, Angels, A’s and Mariners haven’t had a pitcher hit one out either. Who do YOU think will hit the first Twins pitcher homerun in interleague play? My money’s on Johan.
Twins TV play-by-play