Interleague play is futile and skewed

Jun 16, 2012, 2:38 PM | Updated: 3:51 pm

On Monday, the Diamondbacks will play host to the Seattle
Mariners. You, of course, knew that. In fact, you’ve had June 18
marked on your calendar since late last September, when Major
League Baseball released its 2012 schedule.

Diamondbacks-Mariners, baby! If this doesn’t get the boys going, I
don’t know what will.

Actually, please forgive my jest. The fact of the matter is, arbitrary
matchups like the one slated for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
at Chase Field aren’t even half of the problem with interleague play.

Interleague play was first introduced back in 1997. The year before,
owners unanimously voted for its induction, while Bud Selig cited
fan interest and general revenue potential as reasons for the
change. Prior to the modification, there had never been a regular
season American League-National League matchup, such being
preserved for the World Series.

In the beginning, a team’s interleague matchups were exclusively
slated against teams in the opposing league’s corresponding
division. National League West teams would play American League
West teams, National League Central teams would play American
League Central teams and so forth.

There was legitimate intrigue from all sides at first. Fans in New
York couldn’t wait to see the Mets play the Yankees. Chicagoans
looked forward Cubs-White Sox matchups. And those in the Bay
Area, well, looked forward to wearing black and orange to the
Oakland Coliseum.

Fifteen years later, the novelty has faded. The gimmick — that’s
what it is, in my opinion — is dulling.

To state my case — which, I know, is futile, as long as Selig is at

1. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Diamondbacks fan.
Understand — by virtue of their National League affiliation, your
team is significantly disadvantaged in interleague play. National
League rosters aren’t built to include designated hitters — the
Hideki Matsuis, David Ortizes, Raul Ibañezes, and Travis Hafners of
the world. Unless you’re the Rockies, who are curiously holding
onto Jason Giambi for bench purposes, you’re disadvantaged when
you visit American League parks.

Now, this year, the
Diamondbacks’ squad was set up pretty well for interleague play,
thanks to Kevin Towers’ four outfielders. Jason Kubel makes a
pretty good DH, indeed.

No — the pitcher’s spot in the lineup is
not as valuable as the DH spot. Don’t buy that. The need for a DH
in an American League park far exceeds the need for a pitcher with
a handful of at-bats to take to the nine-hole. (I really hate the
inclusion of the designated hitter in baseball, personally. So there
was a good bit of partiality in the previous few paragraphs.)

2. The World Series is pure. The games are special, not only
because the two best teams in baseball square off against one
another but, because, the element of the unknown matchup
provides so much intrigue. Cardinals-Rangers had that element last
year — how would Chris Carpenter fare against that high-octane
Rangers’ lineup? We didn’t know. What would Pujols, Holliday,
Freese, and Berkman be able to do when faced with that oh-so-
solid Rangers’ bullpen? Who knew? Could Motte and Feliz close the
door on the opposition, as they had done all year? That, too, was
yet to be seen.

3. Every team in a division should have the same level of
difficulty in its schedule. This is Major League Baseball, not college
football. There are 162 games — offer level playing fields.

Consider the plight of the lowly Astros, who have to play the
Rangers twice this year as their division rivals, defending World
Series-champion Cardinals get the Royals twice.

fans don’t have much to complain about interleague-wise this year,
as we’ve
. Nonetheless, future schedules could
legitimately disadvantage your team’s chances. Imagine — you’re
slated to play two series versus the Rangers while your division rival
has two against the Mariners. You lose four of six to the Rangers,
while your division rival takes five of six from the Mariners and
goes on to beat you out in the pennant race by a game.

4. The original premise of interleague play is skewed. “Fan
interest”? Yeah? Thanks for sending the A’s and Mariners to Chase,
Bud. Arizonans are just elated with the matchups. Oh, and that
series with the Royals? You can bet radio and television ratings
were through-the-roof that weekend.

Finally, commissioner, you
completely altered — maybe adulterated — the game of baseball
for revenue’s sake? Shame on you.

(Here’s a Selig quote from after
the unanimous owners vote in 1996: “It’s so logical, the only fair
question that people could ask is how come they didn’t do it years

In fairness, it wasn’t just Selig who’s responsible for the change.
Interleague interest dates back to 1933 and it was a unanimous
owners vote, after all. The commish is always an easy target
though, no?) My amateur proposal to baseball: shorten the season
to 147 games by nixing interleague play, equalizing schedules in
the mean time. Extend the wild-card series with your now-open
calendar days. Extend the division series, too, if you’d like.
Emphasize the postseason, and you’ll accomplish what you
intended to do with interleague play in the first place — spike fan
interest and generate general revenue. This approach (postseason
emphasis) would make front offices more competitive, and baseball
more popular.

Assorted Anaheim items

• Trevor Cahill turned in his third consecutive stellar start Friday
night, allowing just three hits and no runs and striking out a
season-high eight batters in the Diamondbacks’ 5-0 shutout win
versus the Angels. Cahill tossed a complete game shutout in San
Diego two starts ago and out-dueled Jarrod Parker his last time out,
but Friday may have been his best start of the season, considering
the lineup he faced. Cahill held the Angels 1-5 hitters (Trout,
Hunter, Pujols, Morales, and Trumbo) to an 0-for-13 clip.

pointed to his experience versus the Angels and Miguel Montero’s
pitch calling as the keys to his success on Friday: “I’ve faced [the
Angels hitters] quite a bit, so they know what I have, but Miggy was
able to mix it up and keep them off balance.”

• Speaking of Miguel Montero, he’s heating up. He has a six-
game hitting streak and he has homered in three of his last five
games, accruing six RBIs in that stretch.

• Willie Bloomquist has reached base in 21 consecutive games,
dating back to May 14. His batting average is up to .298 on the
season, which is the best among National League shortstops and
third best among Major-League shortstops — behind only Asdrubal
Cabrera (.300) and Derek Jeter (.299).

• After Friday’s win, the Diamondbacks are now 9-4 in the
month of June and back to .500.

• Lyle Overbay tweaked his knee in the sixth inning of Friday’s
game. He jokingly blamed “old age” for the injury, describing it as
“tight” and “nothing serious,” though he was pulled from the game
in the bottom of the sixth.

Penguin Air


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Interleague play is futile and skewed