How Major League Baseball Can Make Interleague Play More Than Just a Diversion
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Baseball purists hate interleague play, preferring that American League and National League teams do not meet until the World Series. And you wonder why pro football is now the No. 1 sport in America.
The problem with interleague play is twofold. The first problem is that there aren't many natural rivalries such as the Yankees vs the Mets and Cubs vs the White Sox. Furthermore, the games don't carry more significance than games teams play against opponents in their own league.
We think we've had the answer for years, but no one will listen. And we don't pretend to be the only ones to have thought of this. But if you want to make interleague play exciting for teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals, then award the league that wins more interleague games home field advantage in the world Series.
This solution is so simple that it's almost embarrassing Commissioner Bud Selig and the other high priests in the Major League office haven't gone down this road yet. Instead, they use an exhibition game to decide who gets home field in the World Series.
The All-Star game is nothing more than an exhibition. And while it hasn't plummeted to the depths of the NFL Pro Bowl, it is not even close to what it used to be before free agency and almost year-round trading between leagues made league loyalty a thing of the past.
Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were power-hitting fixtures in the National League. Now they are both in the more hitter-friendly American League where they can eventually find a soft landing as a designated hitter in their golden years.
Meanwhile, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who gave the American League some pitching credibility, are now in the NL.
How should home field advantage be determined for the World Series?
And how can Selig justify using the All-Star game as determining home field advantage when pitchers are used for a couple of innings at most and the goal is to empty the bench and give everyone a chance to play?
If you want to make the game important, then play it like a regular-season game. That means a starting pitcher going six innings if he's doing well. It means leaving the starting lineup intact unless someone is having an awful night.
That isn't going to happen. The Washington Nationals don't want Stephen Strasburg going six or seven innings against the AL, especially since he is already on an innings count this season.
Use interleague play to decide home field, however, and now every team in both leagues is invested in the outcome. So when the Detroit Tigers play the Colorado Rockies, the Seattle Mariners play the San Diego Padres and the Pirates face the Royals, they all contribute to their league's cause.
The American League has been dominating interleague play and holds a 96-72 advantage heading into this final week. Wouldn't it be great if Joe Mauer hit a walk-off homer against the Cincinnati Reds this Friday night, for example, and it clinched home field for the AL in the World Series?
The news could be flashed on scoreboards across the majors and Mauer would be a hero in AL cities like New York and Arlington, Texas, for at least a day.
As we said, it's a no-brainer. Tell that to the commissioner, however.
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