Before I begin my rant on why I can’t stand interleague play let me clarify something: I am a baseball fan. Though the Blue Jays are my favourite team, this has nothing to do with the fact that Toronto is historically bad at it. I don’t want to see interleague play removed simply so the Jays will have a better record (though of course that would be nice). I want it gone because I think baseball would be better (and fairer) without it.
Now, as a baseball fan I understand the rationale behind its introduction. The players strike of 1994 crippled (and nearly killed) baseball. The game needed something to bring the fans back. In 1920, baseball was saved by Babe Ruth after the Black Sox scandal nearly ruined the game. Interleague play was the Babe Ruth of the ’90’s.
I admit the intrigue was there at the beginning. Watching the Jays play the Braves in June was fun. Having Barry Bonds and Larry Walker and Albert Pujols come to Toronto was neat. This year, until the G20 summit ruined it, welcoming back Roy Halladay would have been special. But when a concept is implemented solely to win back fan support at the expense of the league, it is time to right the ship.
Some equate the NHL’s introduction of the shootout as a gimmick to win back fan support. That is true, but here is the difference between the shootout and interleague play: the shootout impacts all teams equally and fairly, and all fan bases equally and fairly. Interleague play does not. Here are a few reasons why:
It only benefits some markets
But what about the Atlanta Braves vs. Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays vs. San Diego Padres, or Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks? Nobody cares about those matchups. The Blue Jays used to have a great rivalry with the Tigers, but with realignment and the introduction of interleague play, now only see them six times per year, only three more times than they see Arizona, San Diego, and the Giants. Garbage.
The schedule is unfair
To be frank, the schedule being unfair is only partly the fault of interleague play. The unbalanced schedule is a terrible idea to begin with, as the Jays have to play three of the best teams in baseball (Boston, New York, and Tampa) 18-19 times each, while teams like Minnesota and Detroit get to play Chicago, KC, and Cleveland.
But interleague play adds another problem. There is no way to play each National League team an equal number of times, so baseball rotates each year. This year Toronto faces Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. All except Arizona are over .500 and contending for a playoff spot. Conversely, Detroit – a team that the Jays have to beat to get a Wild Card birth – face the Dodgers, Pittsburgh, Washington, Arizona, NY Mets, and Atlanta. Half of those games are against last place clubs. Advantage: Detroit.
It technically benefits NL teams
Though the records don’t always prove it, interleague play should benefit National League teams. The managers are used to the intricacies of the game, such as the double switch. The pitchers are used to hitting. Getting to use a DH is an added bonus. Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter has commented on this here, so I won’t go too deep into it.
THE BIG ONE – It dilutes the power of the World Series
As I write this, Brazil is facing North Korea in the World Cup. Though expected by many to be an absolute blowout, this match is also one of the most highly anticipated. Why? Because pretty much nobody in the ENTIRE WORLD has a friggin’ clue about North Korea. They are a mysterious, secretive bunch, which makes the game exciting and intriguing.
That is what used to make the World Series so much fun – the National League teams were exciting, intriguing, and mysterious. Sure I could see the highlights on TV, but there was something different about actually watching Deion Sanders face Jack Morris, or John Kruk bat against Juan Guzman. Interleague play spoils that. How special would it be if CC Sabathia faces Roy Halladay in the World Series this October seeing how they are facing each other tonight? I rest my case.
So Bud Selig, if you’re reading this (and I bet a $245 bottle of Johnny Blue that you’re not), do us a favour. Give us back our normal games and save interleague for the playoffs. The game will be better off.
And I will be happy. At the end of the day that is all that matters…on this blog anyways.