Interleague Play…I’m Done

July 02, 2011 | Paul Hoke

It was fun at first.  But now, it’s just another American fad that has run it’s course much like disco, stone-washed jeans, and the McRib.  And just like those relics from the past, it’s about time someone put Interleague Play to rest.

For good.

When introduced for the 1997 Major League Baseball season, Interleague Play was that shiny new toy that baseball fans had to play with.  Even as a baseball history buff and purist, I kind of thought the idea of my American League Baltimore Orioles playing a National League team during the regular season was a neat idea.  I gave it a chance.  Now, 14 years later….I’m done with it.

It was cool at first, watching as the O’s played in cities like Atlanta, San Diego, and Houston, since they never play in those cities, but over the past 14 years, the shine has worn off the diamond.  Given the Orioles’ struggles, not just in interleague play, but in the American League East overall, I would much rather see them face the traditional West Coast stretch in Oakland, Anaheim, and Seattle, then watch them play nine meaningless games against the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals.  I remember fondly, falling asleep to the voices of Jon Miller and Tom Marr, while the Birds started their west coast games at 10:00 pm.  Just throwing in that little piece of nostalgia, but the point is, I would much rather see the Birds go back to playing their AL counterparts 12 times a year, while playing their AL East rivals 18 times.  At least those game would mean something.

Really, think about it….what does it matter what the Orioles do this weekend in Atlanta?  Does it really matter, other then the fact that we were their get well tonic, that the O’s were swept by the Cardinals earlier this week???  Of course not, because they’re in the National League.  The Orioles play, pretty poorly, in the American League.  These interleague games have almost become quasi-exhibition games because they are truly meaningless.

I understand why the MLB started the experiment.  They had to figure out someway to get fans back after the 1994 strike and the ensuing debacle that followed.  Hell, they even made steroids “legal” as a strategy for bridging the gap between the fans and the game of baseball.  Anyone who thinks ol’ Commish Selig and rest of the MLB head honchos had no idea that these clowns were juicing while all the while counting the dollars that came pouring in because, “chicks dig the long ball,” well, I gotta bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale.  But it’s time to put an end to interleague play, much the same as they’re tried to put an end to steroid use.  It worked for a little while, but now, it’s just done.  I know that the TV networks have tried to build up the hype of the newly formed interleague “rivalries” that have been spawned since 1997, but neither the Yankees or Mets care that they are playing the other team from New York this weekend.  And why should they???  Because this three game set means nothing.  It mattered back in 2000 when they faced off against one another.  Because we called that the World Series.  But when the two face off on the Fourth of July weekend with nothing more then the won-loss record at stake, who really cares?

Baseball isn’t football.  Rivalries in baseball only matter when each team has something to gain or lose, or the history of the clubs stretches back to when our grandfathers would sit in the grandstands as 11 year old boys.  In football, it’s more personal because the teams get to hit one another.  Yankees-Red Sox matter, because they are the AL East’s two best teams year in and year out.  Tigers-White Sox, Phillies-Braves, Giants-Dodgers, these all matter, because they play each other 18-19 times a year and the teams are usually playing for something that matters every year.  Orioles-Nationals?  Cardinals-Royals?  Rays-Marlins?  Please, give me a break.

The idea of Interleague Play was a good idea when it was a new idea.  When it helped bring baseball out of the dark shadow of the 1994 strike.  But like that strike, baseball has outgrown interleague play.  It’s not fun anymore.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  Because true fans and purists realize, that the only time an AL team plays and NL team in games that really matter, is in October, when it’s the World Series.

Just my opinion.