For Any Who Still Oppose It: Why Interleague Play Still Matters

Theo GeromeCorrespondent IIIJune 16, 2009

SEATTLE - MAY 22:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners watches the ball after running to second base during the game against the San Francisco Giants on May 22, 2009 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Giants 2-1 in twelve innings. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I’ve seen a few complaints about interleague play, and I can’t for the life of me understand it. Many fans seem to enjoy the added dimension of play, but there are still those few doubters.

It’s always one of my most highly anticipated events of the year. So, I figured I’d break down the opposing arguments.

First, I’ve seen many people say that the games aren’t relevant when their not rivalries, and that they could care less for the Mariners-Reds games, or the Diamondbacks-Indians, and whatever else that isn’t a major series.

I’ve never understood this argument. 

I’ve never cared for some intraleague games, like the Diamondbacks and Reds. I would much rather have a few games every year against an interesting, new (yet highly unexpected) opponent than an uninteresting team they’ve already played several times this season.

To say a game is irrelevant and uninteresting makes no sense. A Padres-Braves game isn’t a rivalry, and seems rather unexceptional to non-fans. Replacing it with a Padres-Rays game and a Braves-Royals games hardly seems like a loss, as all three series would generate about as much interest among non-fans.

Any counters that these could go to more intradivision rivalries is unlikely, as teams already play a disproportionate number of intradivision games. Any extra games would likely be against teams in other divisions.

In any case, interleague games have higher attendance than average games. Many people argue this does not matter, as interleague games include rivalries. This makes little sense, as their are plenty of rivalries in intraleague rivalries (Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-Cardinals, etc.) that draw many more fans than the average game.

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Nevertheless, in Jayson Stark’s recent column, he mentioned that, even without the four biggest interleague match-ups (Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Dodgers-Angels, A’s-Giants), interleague games still attract more fans than regular matches.

Another case against interleague play that Stark brought up is that it is supposedly unfair. To be honest, it would be nearly impossible to make an entirely fair schedule for every team. It’s already not fair that the Dodgers get to play most of their games against the horrendously bad NL West. It’s already not fair that the Blue Jays play in baseball’s equivalent of the All-Star setting in a video game.

Besides, the interleague games would have to be replaced. Potentially, the schedule could become even more imbalanced.

Picture this scenario: the Mets and Phillies are in a dead heat come the interleague series. They would play the Tigers and White Sox respectively. The Phillies would get the slight advantage. However, without interleague play, they might just as easily play the Nationals and Dodgers, making the disparity larger.

Obviously, this would not always be the case. This scenario is just to show the inequality could go either way.

Traveling has been called a problem, yet as Brad Ausmus notes, “Players do complain unless they go to cities they like. Funny how that works.”

So, it may be a non-issue.

The DH rule has presented a bit of a problem, but nothing much that can’t be solved.

One solution to making it more interesting that is presented in Jayson Stark’s article to use the opposing team’s rules (i.e.; a DH in NL parks and no DH in AL parks), for varying lengths of time. (one and three games per series are both proposed, and I’ll throw in two just to cover all the bases. Pun most definitely intended.)

Another solution I thought of is to use the results of the All-Star Game* or last year’s interleague games to determine the DH question. The triumphant league gets to use it’s rules in all games between the two leagues (maybe including the All-Star Game for the next season, or even the World Series?**)

*It will still mean something, but it is of lesser importance, so it sort of meets the two view points in the middle. **Or maybe not? Ideas would be good.

All in all, interleague play is one of the more successful ideas in the last few years (more than likely, in all of Bud Selig’s reign). It’s problems are few, far between, and fixable. It should stay for some years to come.