When the idea of Interleague play was first introduced into the sports lexicon, baseball purists were up in arms with the concept. Who could blame them? In the regular seasons leading up to the decision, the All-Star Game and the World Series had a much different feel to them. Now, with teams being grouped into bizarre, geographical match-ups, fans and players are stuck into games that mostly do not make sense.
The Tigers-Dodgers and Tigers-Diamondbacks have been annual traditions during the traditional “rivalry week” that has been built into the 18 games of Interleague play. With match-ups like the Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox and Dodgers-Angels, crosstown rivalries have been built for local bragging rights. I would argue that the excessive amount of games between these various teams may have caused more harm in helping support rivalries between franchises. In the Tigers case, any near geographical rival has been impacted by merely being left without a dance partner.
I can honestly say that I was well in favor when this cross-league play took hold in 1997. If you recall the time, this took place the year before McGwire and Sosa had that incredible (thought tainted) run for the record books. Baseball was in need of something to spark interest, and it looked from within to make the switch. With year 14 underway, I have a few suggestions on how Interleague play can be cleaned up for the better:
1) Reduce the amount of games from 18 to 12 (or lower) – if the Tigers hadn’t lost 2 of 3 in Pittsburgh last year, think how that would have changed things. More than 10% of the season cannot be tied up in games that always look and feel awkward.
2) Get rid of regional rivalries – only half of the league makes sense in these cases. If you have the White Sox-Cubs play once every 4-5 years, think how tension filled those games would go.
3) Switch the DH to NL-only parks – AL fans do not want to see the top replacement off of the NL bench come up to hit. I have always found NL games as being more exciting for the strategy in how to use a bench to its fullest extent. This switch would allow for that to happen.