Updated Jun 16, 2012 - 8:51 am
Interleague play is futile and skewed
Diamondbacks-Mariners, baby! If this doesn't get the boys going, I don't know what will.
Actually, please forgive my jest. The fact of the matter is, arbitrary matchups like the one slated for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at Chase Field aren't even half of the problem with interleague play.
Interleague play was first introduced back in 1997. The year before, owners unanimously voted for its induction, while Bud Selig cited fan interest and general revenue potential as reasons for the change. Prior to the modification, there had never been a regular season American League-National League matchup, such being preserved for the World Series.
In the beginning, a team's interleague matchups were exclusively slated against teams in the opposing league's corresponding division. National League West teams would play American League West teams, National League Central teams would play American League Central teams and so forth.
There was legitimate intrigue from all sides at first. Fans in New York couldn't wait to see the Mets play the Yankees. Chicagoans looked forward Cubs-White Sox matchups. And those in the Bay Area, well, looked forward to wearing black and orange to the Oakland Coliseum.
Fifteen years later, the novelty has faded. The gimmick -- that's what it is, in my opinion -- is dulling.
To state my case -- which, I know, is futile, as long as Selig is at the helm:
1. If you're reading this, you're probably a Diamondbacks fan. Understand -- by virtue of their National League affiliation, your team is significantly disadvantaged in interleague play. National League rosters aren't built to include designated hitters -- the Hideki Matsuis, David Ortizes, Raul Ibañezes, and Travis Hafners of the world. Unless you're the Rockies, who are curiously holding onto Jason Giambi for bench purposes, you're disadvantaged when you visit American League parks.
Now, this year, the Diamondbacks' squad was set up pretty well for interleague play, thanks to Kevin Towers' four outfielders. Jason Kubel makes a pretty good DH, indeed.
No -- the pitcher's spot in the lineup is not as valuable as the DH spot. Don't buy that. The need for a DH in an American League park far exceeds the need for a pitcher with a handful of at-bats to take to the nine-hole. (I really hate the inclusion of the designated hitter in baseball, personally. So there was a good bit of partiality in the previous few paragraphs.)
2. The World Series is pure. The games are special, not only because the two best teams in baseball square off against one another but, because, the element of the unknown matchup provides so much intrigue. Cardinals-Rangers had that element last year -- how would Chris Carpenter fare against that high-octane Rangers' lineup? We didn't know. What would Pujols, Holliday, Freese, and Berkman be able to do when faced with that oh-so- solid Rangers' bullpen? Who knew? Could Motte and Feliz close the door on the opposition, as they had done all year? That, too, was yet to be seen.
3. Every team in a division should have the same level of difficulty in its schedule. This is Major League Baseball, not college football. There are 162 games -- offer level playing fields.
Consider the plight of the lowly Astros, who have to play the Rangers twice this year as their division rivals, defending World Series-champion Cardinals get the Royals twice.
Diamondbacks fans don't have much to complain about interleague-wise this year, as we've discussed. Nonetheless, future schedules could legitimately disadvantage your team's chances. Imagine -- you're slated to play two series versus the Rangers while your division rival has two against the Mariners. You lose four of six to the Rangers, while your division rival takes five of six from the Mariners and goes on to beat you out in the pennant race by a game.
4. The original premise of interleague play is skewed. "Fan interest"? Yeah? Thanks for sending the A's and Mariners to Chase, Bud. Arizonans are just elated with the matchups. Oh, and that series with the Royals? You can bet radio and television ratings were through-the-roof that weekend.
Finally, commissioner, you completely altered -- maybe adulterated -- the game of baseball for revenue's sake? Shame on you.
(Here's a Selig quote from after the unanimous owners vote in 1996: "It's so logical, the only fair question that people could ask is how come they didn't do it years ago."
In fairness, it wasn't just Selig who's responsible for the change. Interleague interest dates back to 1933 and it was a unanimous owners vote, after all. The commish is always an easy target though, no?) My amateur proposal to baseball: shorten the season to 147 games by nixing interleague play, equalizing schedules in the mean time. Extend the wild-card series with your now-open calendar days. Extend the division series, too, if you'd like. Emphasize the postseason, and you'll accomplish what you intended to do with interleague play in the first place -- spike fan interest and generate general revenue. This approach (postseason emphasis) would make front offices more competitive, and baseball more popular.
Assorted Anaheim items
• Trevor Cahill turned in his third consecutive stellar start Friday night, allowing just three hits and no runs and striking out a season-high eight batters in the Diamondbacks' 5-0 shutout win versus the Angels. Cahill tossed a complete game shutout in San Diego two starts ago and out-dueled Jarrod Parker his last time out, but Friday may have been his best start of the season, considering the lineup he faced. Cahill held the Angels 1-5 hitters (Trout, Hunter, Pujols, Morales, and Trumbo) to an 0-for-13 clip.
Cahill pointed to his experience versus the Angels and Miguel Montero's pitch calling as the keys to his success on Friday: "I've faced [the Angels hitters] quite a bit, so they know what I have, but Miggy was able to mix it up and keep them off balance."
• Speaking of Miguel Montero, he's heating up. He has a six- game hitting streak and he has homered in three of his last five games, accruing six RBIs in that stretch.
• Willie Bloomquist has reached base in 21 consecutive games, dating back to May 14. His batting average is up to .298 on the season, which is the best among National League shortstops and third best among Major-League shortstops -- behind only Asdrubal Cabrera (.300) and Derek Jeter (.299).
• After Friday's win, the Diamondbacks are now 9-4 in the month of June and back to .500.
• Lyle Overbay tweaked his knee in the sixth inning of Friday's game. He jokingly blamed "old age" for the injury, describing it as "tight" and "nothing serious," though he was pulled from the game in the bottom of the sixth.