Big League Clu weighs in on Interleague play, and if it’s good for the game.
So here we are folks, heading well into the summer season, going to the beach, grilling hotdogs, hamburgers and drinking something nice and cool on the back patio, soaking in the sun and tuning into the great summer pastime that is baseball. Does it get any better? Well, it’s been a hell of a month of baseball and we had quite a slew of Interleague games take place. So I decided to come up with a bit of a discussion topic: is Interleague play still good for baseball? I mean who cares right?! The Baseball game is just too damn long! (little reference to Jimmy McMillian for those who didnt get it)… Anyway, I’ve dug deep and looked at the history of interleague play, some of the rivalries and hey! Maybe I will just give my opinion about the matter.
A little history for those bandwagon fans…
The idea of interleague or interconference play is not a new concept. It has been seen in other professional American sports. It was originally brought up by former Cleveland Indians GM and minority owner Hank Greenberg in the 1950′s. Although it was never adopted, it was very similar to the type of interleague play we have today (Greenberg proposed they play 28 games after the all star break against teams from the opposing league). The idea would be tossed around throughout the decades until the 1990′s when Major League Baseball decided to use it as a way to renew the interest of the fans and get them coming back to the ballparks following the 1994 strike. For the most part, it worked! Fans started coming out to the parks again, and it helped renew some interest in baseball heading into the early 2000s.
The first interleague game was played on June 12th 1997 when the San Francisco Giants faced the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Darren Oliver was the starting pitcher for the Rangers, and if I am not mistaken, he’s still pitching (15 years later) for Toronto! It was also the first time that the a National league team ever used a DH in a regular season game. The Giants would go onto win that game 4-3.
How much has Interleague has changed since 1997?
In the beginning, NL teams from each division would pair up against their AL counterparts (so AL East teams would play NL East teams, and so on and so fourth). That changed when they decided to start mixing it up in the early 2000s, with the exeception of local rivalries that we were used to seeing… but more on those later. In the sense of the game itself, not much has changed… It’s still a 9 inning game, if an American league team is hosting the DH rule is in effect and if a National league team hosts, then the pitcher has to hit, which I find funny and awesome at the same time. I mean how often to you see players like Mariano Rivera having to hack it at the plate? Here’s a little bit of bar room chat for ya: Since 1997, the New York Yankees have had the best winning percentage in interleague play with a 144-102 record (the Yankees went 13-5 in interleague play this season). They are followed by the Chicago Whitesox at 143-104.
How many Interleague rivalries are there?
All in all there are nine cities/states that share two MLB franchises, so you see where we get some of those Interleague rivalries. I wont go into all of them in detail, you will just have look them up yourself, but here’s are a list of some of the more meaningful interleague rivalries in Major League Baseball, and the names of the series that go with em:
- The Windy City Showdown: Chicago Cubs/Chicago White Sox
- The Beltway Series: Washington Nationals/Baltimore Orioles
- The Freeway Series: Los Angeles Dodgers/Los Angeles Angels
- The Subway Series: New York Mets/New York Yankees
**Side Note: The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers also played in a interleague matchup known as the Lone Star Series. However, in 2013 the Astros will be moving from the NL Central division to the AL west division, so there will no longer be an interleague play in the Lone Star State. Instead, they will be division rivals.
What does Big League Clu think of interleague play?
Well for the most part, I have never had anything against interleague play, although this season I did not understand how some teams faced one another more than once (i.e. the Atlanta Braves and the Yankees). I feel like there were still other teams that could have been used in those situations.
I think that Interleague play does help draw fans out to ballgames too. It makes the games more interesting and, in a way, kind of kicks off the summer. I for one got a chance last season to see the Yankees face the Colorado Rockies. How often do the Rockies come out to New York? Maybe once to play the Mets but hey, im not going to give my money to Shiti Field! I think it is going to be an intricate part of Major League Baseball for many years to come. The only thing that may or may not change will be if the Designated Hitter role. I think it will become part of the National League staple. But that is another topic for another time!
Featured image courtesy of: David Banks/AP Images