Friday, June 25, 2004

What Therefore Bud Has Joined Together, Let No Fan Put Asunder

With apologies to the Evangelist.

Tomorrow I'm going to Baltimore to see thrilling interleague action as the Braves take on the Orioles. If I were a man of principle, I'd boycott the Orioles, but I'm not. I'm a man who likes baseball and doesn't want his girlfriend mad at him, so off I go.

It's Rivalry Weekend in baseball, the only part of interleague play anyone cares about anymore, near as I can tell. The Mets play the Yankees, the Dodgers play the Angels, and maybe the Cards and Royals will get into another brawl. No doubt you all have been waiting for Distinguished Senator's Official Opinion on Interleague Play, and here it is:

Junk it. It's been eight years, everyone has played everyone else, and the thrill is gone. Shelve it for twenty years; if there's interest in 2024, bring it back.

I'm not philosophically opposed to interleague. In some areas, I am a purist: I loathe the DH, and I was violently opposed to Selig's radical realignment plans. On the other hand, I have nothing against the Wild Card or expansion. I was intrigued when interleague play started - I remember getting Chinese food and watching the Giants beat the Rangers in the first game. My objection at this point has everything to do with my personal biases as a fan and nothing to do with the Greater Good of the Game.

Several years ago, I was spending the summer at my ancestral home in Colorado. The Rockies were an interesting team that year. It seemed as though they'd be down going into the ninth in every home game, and they'd pull out the win more often than not. They were even in first place for a few days. I really started looking forward to the day's game, and I became very well acquainted with NL West teams, the Giants especially. I knew the starters, I knew the bench guys, I even knew the bullpen. But then, interleague started. A's vs. Rockies - that didn't have any divisional significance. Cards vs. Indians - irrelevant. I like intra-divisional games and plenty of 'em. I'd be happier if teams played one series with each team in the same league but other divisions, and spent the rest of the year with its real rivals. You'd have a lot fewer situations like the Cards not playing the Cubs at all after mid-July. Sure, Orioles vs. D-Rays is not an ideal matchup, but it's marginally more interesting than Orioles vs. Royals, and you'd get more games with the Yankees.

Now, I know people in New York, Chicago, LA, the Bay Area, Missouri, and Texas probably love interleague. But what about the rest of us, stuck with Orioles/Braves or Red Sox/Phillies? Well, check this out: I was reading a biography of hard-hittin' rat bastard Rogers Hornsby, who played for the Cardinals and the Browns when St. Louis had two teams (in fact, the Browns were clearly the favored team until Hornsby showed up, rather like Ruth pushing the Giants out of prominence in New York). Before and after most seasons, the two teams played heated, profitable exhibition series. If New Yorkers want so badly to see the Mets and Yankees square off, why not do this? They could make a trophy, carry it on local TV, Keith Hernandez and Don Mattingly could talk trash, the whole megillah. Hell, after the season, I'd be so starved for baseball that I'd watch it.

POSTSCRIPT: The Rockies wound up collapsing in the second half in whatever year that was. That collapse persists to this very day.

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