“It’s run its course.” Those are the words of Tiger manager Jim Leyland this week regarding interleague play that began Friday in major league baseball.
He has created a minor firestorm, just as he hoped he would because he couldn’t understand why more people weren’t talking about it.
Leyland is right. Interleague play has lost its shine, removed the luster from the World Series being the only time the AL and NL would meet when it counted and turned many AL/NL series into a real “fans couldn’t care less” affair.
Interleague play was instituted in 1997 at a time when generating interest in the game was needed following the strike in 1994.
It was a promotional gimmick, anything to bring back fans who vowed never to come to the ballpark again.
Leyland is also right when he says, “This was something that was certainly a brilliant idea to start with.”
Today, the main emphasis is not on interleague play as such, but the rivalries in New York, Chicago, and maybe the California teams.
As Leyland says, “It’s not really doing what it used to. There’s no rivalries for most of the teams. I’m sure it helps the White Sox a little bit when they play the Cubs at their park, but it doesn’t help Wrigley. They pack Wrigley anyway most of the time. It had its purpose and, in some cases, it’s served its purpose.”
Yes, the fact the Cubs are at Fenway after all these years will draw attention, but once this series is over, that little story will be gone for another 100 years and is playing the Cubs really a big deal for Sox or Cub fans?
Leyland is also right that with the DH rule in place for the AL and not the NL, this whole interleague play is sort of like having a soccer team play a cricket team and everybody pretend the structure of the teams is the same.
“At some point, I don’t know if I’ll be around to see it, we’ve got to get baseball back to the same set of rules,” Leyland said. “I don’t know why more people don’t talk about it.
No other (sport) in history plays different rules. They play the same rules.”
MLB needs to take a fresh look at the entire scheduling process. The unbalanced schedule with teams playing 18 games vs. every team in their division has also run its course.
Television may like the Yankees and Red Sox playing every week, but enough already.
A balanced schedule would be fairer to all teams, give fans a better idea of just how their teams really stand in the league and end the silly two-game series that keep popping up.
Once times may have called for interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, but those times are gone.