This weekend marks the start of that dreaded time of the baseball season – Interleague Play.
It’s now in its 16th season, and I was done with it after two. This was a great gimmick when it started back in the 90s. It brought more interest and intrigue to a game that was struggling to recover from the lockout of 1994. But now, in 2012, it’s become rather pointless.
My objection to Interleague Play starts with the weight-of-schedule issue. These games, other than factoring into a team’s total win-loss record, has no real impact on the season or possibly playoff rivalries. I have tickets to see the Rangers play the Rockies in June. I have absolutely no interest in seeing that matchup. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also have tickets to see the Rangers and Diamondbacks, and being a fan of both teams, I do want to see that.) I need someone to explain to me the point behind a Rangers-Rockies matchup, or a Rangers-Padres, a Blue Jays-Marlins, a Tigers-Astros or a Mariners-Dodgers game.
I would much rather see a schedule that gives teams the chance to develop rivalries with other teams in their leagues, but not necessarily in their division. Such as, it would be great to see the Rangers play the Tigers more than just two series a season. How about a couple more matchups against the Yankees or Red Sox or Rays? These games would generate more interest and therefore more ticket revenue than a contest between the Rangers and a National League team that has little interest to North Texans.
My other objection to this leads me back to my dislike of the National League not using the designated hitter. Forcing American League teams to put their pitchers in the batter’s box a few times a year, throws off a team’s skill set. American League teams are built to use that extra bat, and they are put at a disadvantage when that bat either had to sit on the bench, play a position he is not used to or can be used only as a pinch hitter.
I do need to say that Interleague Play does work in a limited form. I am going to Houston on Saturday to see the Rangers play the Astros. I am excited to see that game. And I do want to see the Mets and Yankees, Nationals and Orioles, Dodgers and Angels and Red Sox and Phillies play every year. Those are natural rivalries, and they do need to be kept in play.
Unfortunately, Interleague Play is here to stay. It’s forced on us by the realignment coming next year. When the Astros move over to the AL West next year (which is a good move), there will now be 15 teams in each league. That means there will have to be Interleague Play all season long – from April through September. My only hope is that the schedulers will allow for a World Series rematch. Other than that, there isn’t much that can be done to boost my interest level in Interleague Play.
Also, with the realignment coming, many people are wondering if the battle for the Silver Boot will lose its luster with the Astros moving to the American League. It will lose some of the feel, but not all of it. There will always be a rivalry between the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Houston – in baseball, basketball, football and in life.