By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
As we embark on a much-anticipated series with the best team in baseball, the question still remains regarding the popularity of interleague play and how important it is to fans.
So before the Tigers head to St. Louis, we will go ahead and answer the question. I have an inkling we may be in agreement on this one.
lnterleague play, love it or hate it?
The novelty has worn off and it’s time for interleague play to go. The only reason it was instituted was to counter the effects from the 1994 strike that resulted in fans abandoning the game.
But what was interesting at first has resulted in weaker strategies for each club as they prepare to play teams in the other division. The system of DH and no DH is completely awkward and a remnant of when the NL and AL offices were their own separate legal entities. They haven’t existed since 2000. If interleague play stays, Manfred needs to mirror the changes in baseball by making the rules uniform for all.
The DH rule creates extra work for teams, especially for the AL. It’s unfair to make them eliminate a significant part of how their team is built because they are playing in an NL park. On the other hand, I would also argue that making a pitcher bat lowers the level of excitement in the game. Would you rather see Shane Greene or VMart at the plate? ‘Nuff said.
And given that the money aspect of baseball has changed significantly, would you really want your expensive pitchers batting which increases the chance of injury? The Cards just lost Adam Wainwright for the entire year because he tore his hamstring coming out of the batter’s box.
But the bigger and better reason for inter-league play to stop is based upon the quality vs. quantity rule. Playing NL teams means the Tigers see more clubs but with less frequency. Three or six games against one team during an entire year tells me little. And it means that my knowledge of the NL competition is not as deep as it would be addressing just the AL.
Yet another disadvantage that impacts division rankings is created when some teams are scheduled to only play the Cards and Giants, while other teams are assigned the Cubs and Padres.
Staying within the AL means the Tigers would play more games with their division rivals as well as with other AL teams. I think a fan can take away more info from playing an equal number of games with every team in the AL rather than the majority within their own division.
When Major League Baseball began allowing both leagues the opportunity to play each other during the regular season, I didn’t mind the idea.
It was a break from the monotony of the unbalanced schedule (which I hate, by the way). For a few weeks during the season, interleague play offered a nice change of pace. Teams could play someone different, in ballparks we weren’t used to seeing.
But beginning last season, it became more of an interference. It was fine when the Tigers would take a break, play some National League teams for a week, then resume their races with the Central Division and the American League. And it was fine to give it another go a month later. But what has really ruined things is the decision to sprinkle these series throughout the entire schedule, from beginning to end.
So my suggestion is this: if we can’t get interleague play done within the first 4 months of the season, then do away with it altogether. I have lost patience in the whole exercise.
Last season, we started seeing AL pitchers, in the middle of pennant races having to worry about batting again and running bases again, when what they really needed was to just focus on pitching. Some teams even started the season with interleague play; some ended it. It’s interrupting the flow of the season, constantly switching back and forth, and it is now really wearing out its welcome.
Major League Baseball used to be different in relation to the rest of the major sports as league schedules stayed separate until 2 teams, who hadn’t met each other all season, met in the World Series. It was uniquely baseball.
Even though the American League has fared pretty well since interleague play began, it has always been more of an adjustment for the AL. Tiger fans know first-hand how much the team has spent on their designated hitter. So, when on the road, AL teams, specifically the Tigers, can’t even field the team they invested in, because of the format.
The reasons to dump it far outweigh the reasons to keep it. And baseball would be just fine if we pulled the plug.