Crosstalk: Why can’t interleague play just go away?
More Talkin' Baseball
Ben: Even with the formerly productive Casey “Simple kind of man” McGehee just starting to climb out of a tremendous slump and Yuniesky Betancourt a pop-up genius, the Brewers look fantastic. Like, World Series fantastic. If the starting rotation and the front half of the lineup continue this way, at least a playoff appearance is in the future. But let realism give way to blinding optimism for a moment and consider the fact that if the Brewers really make it to the world championships, the team will have to face an American League opponent. With their stupid rules and dumb faces, it’s easy to hate American League teams and the interleague play that makes hard-working National League pitchers set aside their bats, but that won’t change the fact that the Brewers will have to beat one of them to get that pointy trophy.
So why not get some extra scouting/stomping done on them during the regular season? The Brewers drew a balls-shriveling AL East schedule that will take them into the crumbling confines of Fenway Park and the dickless shopping mall of new Yankee Stadium, but that should be a good thing. One or both of those assholes make the playoffs every year. Let’s get a piece now. Should Commissioner Bud Selig get his way and realign the sport into two 15-team leagues, interleague play will be a season-round reality. It’s already been more than 10 years since interleague play was introduced. Let’s enjoy the change of scenery.
Tyler: You lay out some interesting points here, but all of them are moot if the team doesn’t take care of the most important part of this whole getting to the World Series thing. There’s the matter of getting past 15 other National League teams to even have the opportunity to hand it to an American League baseball squadron. Besides, the Brewers have more experience against AL teams than any of their NL counterparts. They’re the National League leaders in American League Pennants! Remember when Milwaukee went through that awkward American League phase for 28 seasons? Discounting two of ’em, it didn’t exactly work out.
And frankly, interleague play is just a way to make a few extra shekels at the gate through drummed up non-rivalries, while detracting teams from the primary focus of beating division rivals. It’d be one thing if the rivalries were balanced. They are not. Since the introduction of interleague play in 1997, St. Louis has played 87 games against the perennial-shitastic Kansas City Royals, while the Brewers have been tasked with trading blows against the competitive (and usually better) cross-river ex-rivals in Minnesota 84 times in the same span. Having a temporary excuse to make Mat Gamel seem worthy of a professional baseball roster spot doesn’t make up for the 14-season (and counting) leg-up interleague play has given division rivals like the Cards.
Plus, what preparation does DHing entail? Putting Milwaukee’s worst fielding hitter somewhere in the batting order isn’t exactly a sweet science. Fielding liabilities like David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, and Travis Hafner (among others) have enjoyed nice semi-careers as half-players in this bastardized version of baseball in the DH-era. But with at least three of these hypothetical World Series games to be played at Miller Park, the much more glaring advantage for Milwaukee lies in the hitting prowess of the pitching staff. As I write this, Milwaukee has the second-most home runs by pitchers in all of baseball. And you know Yovani Gallardo is good for at least one more before season’s end. I think it’s more important for the Brewers to try and escape the half-baked joke of interleague baseball with limited damage, while focusing on relevant NL match-ups down the stretch.
Phew! All that ranting and I didn’t even get to the proposed re-alignment (a.k.a. the cause of my future stroke). Why don’t you give me a few minutes to cool off while you tell me why you probably love this terrible abortion of a plan.
Ben: The biggest reason I like the proposed plan is it will even up one of the greatest inequities going in baseball right now: the current divisions. As much as I don’t like almost all American League teams, I save most of my hatred for the stupid Yankees and the stupid Red Sox, with their gigantic payrolls and their dominance of the AL East. Even worse is the fact that the Brewers basically have a one-in-six chance of winning their division while AL West teams have a one-in-four. The realignment would take care of both of those problems with its proposed 15-team leagues with no divisions plan that would put the top five from each into the playoffs.
Of course, that would make the awful DH rule an even bigger factor, since one team from each league would be the odd man out on any given day. The ideal solution would be for the MLB and the AL to realize how big of pussies they’re being and put things back to the way they were—but it’s been nearly 40 years, so that’s unlikely. Since the League has stuck so closely to its money-making DH rule, there’s little reason to believe it won’t be just as stubborn with the realignment plan, forcing a buttload more interleague games. This sounds gross, but maybe the NL has to finally bite the bullet on the DH rule since it looks like the teams are going to need them a lot. I, too, will miss Gallardo hitting home runs, but if it means he can (just maybe) pitch long enough so Marco Estrada doesn’t have to come in and totally fuck everything up in six pitches, than that’s okay with me.
Tyler: Though the prospect of realignment still makes the head of this baseball purist spin—I just began to wrap my head around dome stadiums and the use of tildes on jerseys!—I suppose I can swallow the notion of realignment if it’s done right. Beyond that, the best alternative measure (other than leaving things the way they are, which I strongly support) is adding two more teams to the already annoying American League. And, frankly, I don’t know if Salt Lake City and Cheyenne, Wyoming have it in them to support teams. So if changes must be made, I suppose there’s some sense to the proposed plan. My real hangup is that the Astros would be the odd team out of the NL. Don’t get me wrong, if it was 2004, I’d be pledging a hearty “Hey Ya” (a popular OutKast song from the period) to the prospect of bidding adieu to the then-fearsome ’Stros. But the modern day Houston Astros chug man-dick. The idea of outsourcing them to the already bad AL West during the team’s present 100-loss-caliber state seems like a complete waste. But I guess it still beats the Brewers going back to the American League.
That is, unless the DH is made leaguewide. And if that happens, it won’t matter what league anyone is in or whether baseball even exists anymore because my head will have exploded. I realize the near 40-year history of the designated hitter makes the “position” unlikely to go anywhere, but what about the 170-year run of non-DH baseball (known as “baseball” in most respected baseball circles)? That seemed to work out pretty well, too. The game was designed to have pitchers hit. I like the idea of getting excited that Narvdog fisted a meaningless single while Gary Sheffield sits bitter and unemployed in a sports bar somewhere. And carrying one less pitcher on the roster to allow some asshat to run a train on Red Bull and Big League Chew in the dugout while he waits to go 0-4 doesn’t really support your Estrada defense. The more pitchers a team has, the higher the likelihood one will perform effectively on the reg (especially in a game built on offensive failure).
I shudder as I ask this, but is it possible baseball’s present way of doing things is the best possible way? Aside from slight interleague annoyance a few times a year and the pesky, albeit distanced, DH, I don’t have many qualms. I guess if we’re splitting hairs, the MLB could kill Joe Buck or something. Other than that, I’m cool with baseball as is.