Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

BASEBALL NATION: Interleague play: chuck it!

Well, it's that time of year again. Interleague play is on, as the Yankees take on the Rockies and the Mets take on the Twins.

My take on interleague? It's kinda like the DH. It's one of those gimmicks that was nice in its time, but by now we could do without it. Following the '94 strike, interleague was a nice attempt at trying to draw fans back to the game. And hey, they got 50,000 people to show up to the mets-yankees games, so it was pretty successful. And the novelty of seeing the yankees playing teams like the phillies and expos for the first time was pretty cool.

Seven years after that first Rangers-Giants game (the ol' Will Clark matchup), I think interleague's a bore. The way I see it, there are so many great races going on that teams like the Reds and Angels will draw no matter who's playing. And fans of the Expos and Devil Rays will have no interest in going to a game just to see team from the other league beat their team. Perhaps in '98, where there were divisions like the AL East and Central that had basically one good team, it was more of an appeal (hey, let's see the Yankees kick the Marlins' butt for a change! How exciting!)I haven't checked the attendance numbers yet, but I think the general consensus is that the numbers have gone down over the last few years. But with competitive balance as good as it's been for the first time in years, interleague play isn't that necessary.

I've always kinda felt that interleague play took something away from the World Series, baseball's original and best interleague series. When the Yankees and Mets took the field together for the first time in '97, I felt like a kid eating stolen candy. Sure, it tasted good, but I had that feeling in me that "hey, something isn't right." The only redeeming factor was that the Subway Series in 2000 wasn't as big a deal for me to miss, as interleague play certainly watered down the excitement and thrill.

Speaking of the Subway Series, the excitement has plummetted over the last few years. And even with a better Mets team this year and
thus a more competitive series looming, I think it'll be lamer than last year. Because of the overkill, the novelty has worn off. True, the stadium is still packed at these games, but I have a feeling there will be smaller crowds as the years go by.

One more argument against interleague is that it messes up the wild card situation. If team A plays a tough division and team B plays an easier one: so let's say at the end of the year, team B wins the wild card by a game. Is that fair? Was team B truly the better team? (This also explains my displeasure with the chemically imbalanced schedule, but that's an article for a different time.)

So, my message to the MLB: get rid of interleague games (okay, maybe 1 subway series just to please Steinbrenner and Wilpon). Instead, throw in some more league games, because even within each league there are plenty of good teams to watch, and all without diluting the world series and the wild card.


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