As longtime ANers bored enough to pay attention to my thoughts on such things know, I am not a fan of interleague play. Every year when the first series against the Gnats rolls around, I once again enter into my foul, interleague-play mood. In an effort to get this off my chest so that I don't spend too much time grousing about it in the gamethreads, I've decided to set my gripes down in a FanPost. Join in the grousing, celebrate interleague play, or just do the easy thing and ignore me.
Before I get to my brief list of some of the many ways that interleague play sucks, let me first note that I am, by nature, a baseball traditionalist. I don't take easily to change in the game I love. I grew up with only four divisions in baseball and four teams going to the playoffs. When I was a kid, the ALCS and NLCS (though they weren't called that yet) were best three-of-five. When they went to seven game championship series, I thought it was a terrible idea. And when they went to three divisions and added a round of playoffs, I thought it was even worse.
But in both cases, I came to change my mind. Seven game series are just better than five game series; they give us more baseball and they're a better test of team quality. And baseball was able to double the number of playoff teams without significantly watering down the meaning of the regular season (though it simply isn't the case in most years that having a wild card makes for more regular season "pennant races"). So I'm pretty much fine with the playoff structure of baseball these days.
Now given my traditionalist tendencies, it's unsurprising that, when interleague play began, I hated it. Unlike the expansions of the playoffs, however, I still hate, with a passion. Some reasons why are below the fold....
1) Interleague play unbalances the schedule. This one is obvious. You're competing for playoff spots against your own division and (if you happen to be in second place) against other second place teams in your league. And yet, no two teams in the same league play the same schedule thanks to interleague play. This sucks mightily.
2) Interleague play is a gimmick that gets less and less interesting with each passing year. "Wouldn't it be great to play the cross-town/-Bay/-state/-sprawling-smog-ridden-metropolitan-area team from the other league in real games that actually count?" I guarantee that any baseball fan in an area with two teams thought that at one time or another before interleague play. And our only hope was meeting in a "subway series." And the odds were heavily stacked against that. Then again, what made such World Series so special--like 1989 for A's fans--was precisely that they were so rare. But after a few seasons of interleague play, playing the team from across the Bay is no longer so special. Yes, I dislike the Giants. And yeah it's great to beat them. But they're not in the division, so beating them is simply less significant than beating the M's or the Rangers or the slegnA. The thrill is gone.
3) And as dull as playing the Gnats has become, playing the other NL teams is even worse. I can only imagine what the experience must be like for teams like Seattle who have no natural rival in the other league and are thus stuck playing the Pads every year.
4) Interleague play totally undermines the specialness of the World Series (and All-Star Game, too....but this is much, much less important). Used to be that the World Series always featured a match up that had never taken place in the regular season. Sometimes it featured as match up that had never before taken place at all. I always thought this was one of the things that made baseball so special...and utterly unlike other major North American sports. NHL and NBA teams all play each other every year. Over the course of any four seasons or so, every NFL team is likely to have played every other NFL team. But every year in baseball, we got a series you wouldn't otherwise see. And of course this was particularly exciting when you had a subway series. This excitement is now gone. Especially in the case of subway series.
5) The DH annoyance. I feel duty bound to mention this, though it's much less important than the other problems.
OK....flame off. Now I just need to hold my nose and "enjoy" the "exciting" series against our "rival." See y'all in the game threads.