TIME TO PULL THE PLUG ON INTER-LEAGUE BASEBALL
I have never been a fan of inter-leaue baseball and my reasons are quite simple. Playing the other league is a privilege not a right. For example, if you are good enough, then your number will be called to participate in the All-Star game, and if your team is good enough, then they will appear in the World Series. Contriving false rivalries, where none exist, is not in the best interest of the game, and it undermines the competitive sanctity of baseball.
After the greedy owners and players robbed the the baseball world of an Expos-Yankees World Series in 1994, commissioner Bud Selig in his infinite wisdom, decided to use inter-league games as a novelty gimmick to bring fans back. The thing about novelties and gimmicks is that, eventually they will run their course, and you're left holding the bag of problems that you were stuck with in the first place. Just ask the Montreal Expos... oops I mean the Washington Nationals. Now there is actually talk of moving the Houston Astros to the American League, which would bring balance to the number of teams in each league. It would also ensure that there is at least one inter-league game played every day of the baseball season. Doing that would be a great disservice to the game, and someone should head this off at the pass as soon as possible. There are better ways to tweak the game instead of putting baseball purist such as myself through this abomination. How about we figure out a way to fix the economic disparity between teams, instead of prolonging this farce. If you want to realign and bring balance to the game, why not stick the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels and Tigers in a money division. Bringing about a salary cap, would of course be the most logical way to handle these problems, but the greedy players union ( who has always felt above the law) would never go for that. Every year like clockwork, watching the Yanks and Sawx figure out which future Hall Of Famer will fit their plans is enough to make me hurl my $5 footlong and chips.
To be fair, I am not necessarily anti-Bud Selig like most others. While I deplore the way he came into power, and I would love to send him a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth for all the waffling he has done through the years, he has made some strides in the game that I find quite admirable. The advent of the wild card has been a good thing for baseball. I remember when the notion of a wild card was floated around. I was vociferously opposed. My uncle David and I had spirited debates on this topic, and to be honest I was wrong. The wild card has been a positive step for the game. More teams in the hunt for postseason play, can only help the popularity of the game. Even though he was punked by Congress into setting some standards on steroid testing, I no longer have to watch an MLB Live video game, with players putting up ridiculous power numbers. Now great pitching has once again moved to the forefront of the game. I am even a fan of the winner of the All-Star game getting home field advantage throughout the World Series. It is much better than the system that was in place before.
As a fan growing up in an American League city, I have to admit that I prefer the National League brand of baseball. It is in it's essence, a pure version of the game. The complexities in the strategy are mind boggling and exhilarating. Unless you're a fan of slo-pitch softball, I can hardly think of a reason you would rather seen nine Goliaths taking their cuts, over a a strategic double switch or a sacrifice bunt to move runners along in a nip and tuck game in the late innings. Therein lies one of the many problems for inter-league baseball. Teams have been carefully constructed in the off season and Spring Training to win the title in their respective leagues. N.L teams are at a disadvantage when they play in A.L parks because they don't have another slugger sitting on the bench. A.L teams are at a disadvantage, because now they have to take one of their prime hitters and bench him in N.L parks. Besides if you really wanted the fans to experience the other's style of play, baseball would have made the DH bat in National League, while pitchers would take their cuts in American League stadiums. In fact I would propose that if you are going to continue with inter-league play, then why have two different leagues in the first place? The powers that be should form a setup like basketball and hockey, and have two different leagues based on geographical makeup.
In the beginning of this failed experiment, there was a setup that involved a yearly rotation between divisions. For instance the American League East would play the National League East. The Central division teams played each other, as well as the teams out west dueling with one another. Now it is based purely on making money, and which matchups will generate top dollar. The Milwaukee Brewers are the only team in the N.L Central that has to face Boston, New York and Tampa this year. The Brewers are in the midst of a dogfight for N.L Central supremacy. I think it is hardly fair that they have to battle these power house teams, while the Cardinals get off light with the Orioles and the Indians. If the Brew Crew loses by one game, I will be forced to wonder how much of an impact those game had on their season. Baseball has always been a game of tradition and balance, but the owners and the commissioner have shown they are willing to prostitute their traditions for the maximum dollar. The White Sox will play the mediocre Cubs six times, while division rivals Tigers and Indians will play three games apiece against the World Champion Giants, with no games against the Cubbies. To add insult to injury, Detroit has six consecutive road inter-league games, that will in effect banish Victor Martinez to the bench.
While watching the Yankees take on the Mets was appealing on some level in the beginning, it now draws a big yawn from me. It also diminished the value of the 2000 World Series when these two teams made the show. Ho hum, I have seen this act before, thank you baseball for robbing me of a true subway series between two teams that haven't seen each other. If you want to continue with gimmicks, how about we have a home run hitting contest to decide tied games after nine innings? That would surely be good for business, but I think we can all agree, that is not in the best interest of baseball, to have games decided in that fashion.
I think that Is what I hate the most. The World Series and All-Star games were so special and unlike anything else in sports. Baseball, so desperately wants to be football, but news flash, you are not football and you never will be in this country. There are tangible things you can do to bring back the excitement. Focus on the beauty of the game, and you will never go wrong. I can never express how much I miss two teams playing each other for the first time. Anyone who disagrees, play a DVD of the 1976 World Series between the Reds and the Red Sox. Or how about popping in a tape of the A's vs. the Dodgers in 1988. Bill Buckner anyone? Other than the Diamondbacks of 2001 and the Red Sox of 2004, most of today's World Series are missing something. That is because the impossible has now become the improbable. In the Hounds of the Baskerville, Sherlock Holmes said it best," Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains however improbable, must be the answer. I do not like to eliminate the impossible. The impossible often has a kind of integrity that the merits of improbable lacks." Smart guy
There is an 11.6% rise in attendance during these games, so obviously I am in the minority. I also know that inter-league is here to stay no matter what I think about it, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it. As I write this I am looking at my two tickets for Monday and Tuesday's game at PNC Park, between the Orioles and Pirates. Wow, Just when I think I am out, they pull me right back in.
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