MLB Inter-League Play

Way back in 1997 when baseball decided that it needed something to spark attendance, it introduced regular-season inter-league play to its’ schedule.

And eleven years ago, I wasn’t a fan of the idea. To me, the World Series was the only time that American League needed to meet National League apart from the exhibition all-star game.

And after yesterday’s injury to Chien-Ming Wang I now have an additional legitimate reason.

First off, when people argue that the NHL, NBA and NFL all play inter-league or inter-conference games I pleasantly remind them that those three leagues have the same rules throughout. Major League Baseball has one league that employs a DH and one that does not. So when American League teams have to go to National League opponents, their pitchers must hit. And American League pitchers never hit. The National League is the only league in the world that does not use a designated hitter, so many AL hurlers haven’t picked a bat in ages.

Yesterday was the first second time that Chien-Ming Wang had run the bases in a game since high school.

Pitchers with American League organizations don’t pick up a bat in the minor leagues. Then MLB throws them out there for nine interleague games. American League pitchers run all the time and are in fantastic shape (except Curt Schilling) but the run in straight lines in the outfield, or foul poles.

I understand that inter-league games allow teams to play that normally wouldn’t. But to me it compromises the World Series. You want the Cubs to play the White Sox? Do it in October if both teams are good enough.

There’s also two more teams in the National League than in the American League so not everyone plays the same schedule. The “natural-rivalries” also create a “strength of schedule” for better or worse. Who decided that Seattle and San Diego are “natural” rivals? Obviously teams like the Cubs and White Sox, Giants and A’s, Yankees and Mets and Angels and Dodgers are “natural rivals” due to geography, but there’s not much else.

Imagine that the Cubs and Cardinals are fighting for a division title and the Cardinals beat out the Cubs by one game. Well, perhaps the Cubs went 2-1 against a division-leading White Sox team while the Cardinals swept the haplessly cellared Royals. The Cubs and Cards would have identical records against the same teams they played, but because someone’s “natural” rival sucks and someone else’s is decent, the Cubs lose out.

It’s not fair to clubs that bust their butt for 162 games and then get boned by MLB’s desperate attempts for ratings.

So my first proposal would be to do away with the gimmick altogether. It was a novelty for a few years, but now it’s old. It’d be like asking Peyton Manning to play center for a game in the middle of the season or asking Chris Paul to play center when they visit the Magic.

Or, if you don’t completely abandon inter-league play, at least follow American League (and World) rules. It’s much easier for a Chris Duncan or Chipper Jones to DH than it is for a Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lackey to bat and run the bases.

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Posted on June 16, 2008, in Sports. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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