Thursday, May 19, 2011

Interleague Play Whining Continues

Interleague play begins in Major League Baseball Friday, and you know what that means ...

Bigger crowds.

AL pitchers having to (gasp!) hit.


When interleague play started in the 1990s, it created all sorts of intriguing matchups we hadn't seen before. The regional rivalries -- namely Yankees/Mets, Cubs/White Sox, Angels/Dodgers, and Rangers/Astros -- got varying amounts of interest, but they sure were fun to watch for the most part. The crowds made them fun.

Of course, crowds weren't going to show up when the Pirates played the Tigers, but it was made up for when Detroit fans got to see a team like the Cardinals, or when Pittsburgh fans got a chance to watch the Yankees.

This year, one of the highlights of the interleague schedule is this weekend's series between the Cubs and Red Sox at Fenway Park, marking Chicago's first visit to Fenway since 1918. That's pretty cool, right?

Well, it's not cool enough for chain-smoking Tigers manager and apparent curmudgeon Jim Leyland.

The appeal of interleague play, Leyland said, “has worn off for me. It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it has run its course.” He knows that higher-ups, such as his good friend Commissioner Bud Selig, won’t want to hear it, but Leyland spoke his mind all the same. “I’ll probably get chewed out for (saying) it,” he said, “but I think a lot of people feel the same way … I’m on the (Commissioner’s) committee, and I’ll probably get a phone call,” said Leyland, “but I don’t really care. That’s totally ridiculous.”

When I think of things that are ridiculous, I'm usually going to come up with stuff that isn't very good.

How is interleague play bad? San Francisco scribe -- and apparently a fellow curmudgeon -- Bruce Jenkins offers up an explanation.

Check out these discrepancies:

The Giants' series at Detroit represents their only interleague road trip (Oakland doesn't count). San Diego goes to Boston, Minnesota and Seattle.

The Giants play only four American League teams. Arizona plays six, with road trips to Detroit, Kansas City and Oakland.

While the Giants face Minnesota, Cleveland and Detroit from the A.L. Central, the Colorado Rockies have four series against that division and a trip to Yankee Stadium.

The Giants play 15 interleague games. Arizona plays 18, as does Oakland.

Tell me this stuff won't be a bone of contention if a team gets knocked out of the postseason by a game or two.

Really? So who's going to have a case? Whose schedule is easier?

Last I checked, each team in the majors played 162 games -- 81 home and 81 away. Each team will usually have a couple roadtrips that approach or surpass double digits in the number of games scheduled, and each team usually has a homestand or two of similar length. Each team plays a ton of division games, and each team plays everyone else in their league (American or National) both home and away.

If the Giants miss the playoffs by a game or two, will they complain that they had to play two series against a pretty good Oakland team while Colorado was playing Minnesota and Detroit? Or will Colorado whine about playing at Yankee Stadium if they miss the playoffs?

There's an easy solution.

Win more games.

If you don't like the interleague schedule, it doesn't matter. Just win.

(Full disclosure: Jenkins' next note in this piece calls out Ned Yost for being a hot-headed moron after he left a pitcher out to allow 14 runs in just over two innings of work this week. He deserves credit for that, even if I've been saying that since like 2007. Yost is a terrible manager who has no business working with so many young players like he is in Kansas City.)

Anyway, I'm beyond tired of hearing about the unequal schedules you get out of interleague play. No one's schedule is the same, not even within divisions. If the Brewers beat out the Cardinals for a playoff spot, do you think Tony LaRussa is going to go on a diatribe about the fact the Brewers got more home games against the Mets than his team did?

(Actually, LaRussa might do something like this, but you get the point.)

It's ridiculous.

Really, this is nothing more than selective whining by people who don't like interleague play. They thought the fad was gone, but attendance figures and television ratings continue to prove them wrong. They think the fans hate the thing, but the fans don't. They think the players hate it, but they're not vocal about it if they do.

So now they're going to hammer on unequal scheduling, without realizing that no schedules are equal in baseball, with or without interleague play.

Having dinosaurs like Leyland out there using bad arguments to support their hatred of a good thing in baseball doesn't make anyone look good.

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