This weekend has been the first round of interleague games this year, with probably the most notable matchup being the return of the Chicago Cubs to Fenway. Regular season games between the two leagues began in 1997 and has drawn it’s share of criticism. I personally like interleague play, but I do agree that it could use a few changes.
The biggest complaints usually involve the Designated Hitter rule. First of all, American League pitchers don’t bat, so many will argue that it’s too risky having them at the plate with little or no experience. No one seems to have a problem with this during the World Series though, and maybe a little mid-season practice is helpful if their team is lucky enough to be playing in late October. Others argue that they simply don’t like seeing AL pitchers fumble at the plate or on the flip side, National League fans dislike the loss of certain strategies with a DH in the game. The only change I’d like to see involving the DH – is switching when it’s used. If the Red Sox come to St. Louis, I’d rather see Big Papi in the game than watch Clay Bucholz attempt to bunt. We miss getting to see some of the biggest hitters in baseball and the AL fans don’t get to see double switches and the occasional pitcher helping their own cause by getting on base. I say use the DH in NL parks, and not in AL parks, for interleague games.
There is also quite an imbalance in scheduling that can stir emotions. Teams play the “cross town” rival (which is usually just the team that is close, geographically) more often than others in the opposite league. For the Mets, this means they play more games against the Yankees than any other opponent in the AL. This affects the difficulty in a teams schedule, as I’m sure they’d prefer to play the Orioles or Mariners, which instead is left to teams like the Nationals and Padres. We play the Royals twice every year, one series in St. Louis and one in KC. Why not only have 1 series with the “cross towners”, and just switch cities every other year?
I love being able to see other teams and other players, but I also get impatient waiting for a certain team to come to town – another area of inconsistency in the scheduling. The Cubs are playing in Fenway this weekend and it’s the first time since the 1918 World Series that they’ve been there. Seems a little odd to me that in 15 years of interleague play this is their first trip to Boston. I used to think that the divisions were paired up; that over the course of 3 years you’d likely play every team in the opposite league. (For example, the NL Central could play the AL West this year, East next year and Central the following year, then back to the West and so on.) I know it can’t be an easy thing to put together a schedule involving 30 teams with so many games and specific matchups, but I’m sure a better balance is possible.
All things considered, I like it. I enjoyed sitting near the 3B dugout for the Rays games in ’08 and thinking “My God! They’re teenagers!” Cardinals fans love going to KC every year for the I-70 series. (To be fair, though, Cardinals fans love going anywhere to see them play!) I’m anxiously awaiting the return of the Rangers, and also the Yankees – who last played here in ’05 when I didn’t have field level tickets (and do now). On a shelf in my basement sits a ball that was tossed to me by Dallas Braden just weeks after throwing a perfect game for Oakland, and World Series rematches are always good fun the following year.
So while I’d like to see some adjustments made, all things considered, I hope interleague play is here to stay.