Friday, June 8, 2012

Top 5 Reasons Interleague Play Needs to Stop



This is an update of a piece I first did on May 21, 2011.

You know how "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing? Well, I was originally going to title this post "Top 5 Reasons Why Interleague Play Needs to Stop," then decided to make it "Top 5 Reasons Why Interleague Play Needs to Go." Then I remembered that my first title was better, and then realized that both titles mean the same (George Carlin word)ing thing!

Anyway... Tonight, at Yankee Stadium II, which isn't, or shouldn't be, any friendlier to the fucking Mets than the original -- oops, I guess I used a George Carlin word there, but that's okay because, A, It's my blog and I can use whatever damn language I please; and B, I think it was Carlin who first made the fat/slim chance comparison...

The Yankees start a new Interleague series against The Other Team, a.k.a. the Mess, a.k.a. the Mutts, or, as they are officially known, the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York.

Or, as the Mets would be known if they were an English soccer team, "Metro BC." (BC: "Baseball Club.") And the Yankees would be known as "Pinstriped Badasses United."

Something has got to happen to make this annual snore-fest start appealing to me again. The novelty wore off many years ago. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm sick of the Subway Series and I'm sick of interleague play.
-– Bernadette Pasley, “Lady At the Bat,” last season -- see link to the right


I agree completely. It's not only that, but, as Mike Baumann said around the same time on MLB.com -- which is only The Official Website of Major League Baseball...

The NL has not won the overall Interleague series since 2003. In the last six seasons, the AL has a winning percentage of .561. In American politics, there is a term for what occurs when a candidate wins 55 per cent or more of the vote. That word is "landslide."

So Interleague Play over the last six years can fairly be described by this sentence. "The AL won by a landslide."


Or, to put it another way: Over a 162-game season, a winning percentage of .561 will win you 91 games. That might be enough to get you into the Playoffs.

Coming into tonight's game, the Yankees' all-time record against the Mets is 52-36, or a percentage of .591. Over 162 games, that's 96 wins. That will almost always get you into the Playoffs.

So the Yankees' dominance of the Mets is indicative of the fact that the American League is vastly superior to the National League.

Seriously, this is almost as bad as the intracity rivalry between North London soccer teams Arsenal and Tottenham, where Tottenham didn't beat Arsenal at all for 10 years and not at Arsenal for 17.

Met fans, a.k.a. the Flushing Heathen, place a great importance on the National League. They treat it almost as something holy. When their parents and grandparents, the fans of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, lost their teams in 1957 (and, let's be honest, while the Dodgers can be said to be stolen, Giant owner Horace Stoneham had a point when he said, "I feel bad for the kids, but I haven't seen too many of their fathers lately," so they weren't stolen, they were forfeited), these fans whined that there was no more National League baseball in New York.

Ignoring the fact that there was still MAJOR league baseball in New York -- something for which, at that point, fans in the following cities that now have MLB teams would have killed for at the time: Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Denver, Phoenix, Miami and Tampa. Not to mention Montreal, which got a team and then got screwed out of it; Louisville, which has been waiting to get MLB back since 1899; or Buffalo, which has been waiting since 1885!

And said major league team remaining in New York was... the champions of its league for the 3rd straight year and the 23rd time in the last 37 years! And, as it turned out, these fans were willing to trade it for... a team that lost 737 games in its first 7 years? And played the first 2 of them in a crumbling relic in a bad neighborhood, and then moved into a concrete football stadium with more planes going overhead than London during the Blitz?

Have I ever mentioned my belief that Met fans are idiots? Well, not all of them. Maybe not even a majority of them. But a lot of them.

But they still hold the National League as something special, even holy. Why? It can't be their irrational hatred of the designated hitter, because the DH didn't arrive in the American League until 1973. It can't be that the NL is "real baseball," because there was a time in the Seventies when over half the NL's stadiums (7 out of 12) had artificial turf and all but 2 (10 out of 12) were in multipurpose stadiums that were better for football than baseball! (Oddly, the only remaining stadiums with turf are Tampa Bay and Toronto, and the only ones still shared with a pro football team are Oakland and Toronto, all in the AL.)

Anyway, here's the record: Only once has a team swept all 6 games in a season, the Yankees in 2003; the Yanks took 5 in 2009; the Yanks took 4 of 6 regular-season games in 2000, '01 and '11 while the Mets did so in '04 and '08; the Yanks took 2 out of 3 in the first 2 seasons, 1997 and '98; and even splits occurred in 1999, 2002, '05, '06, '07 and '10. And, of course, the Yankees won 4 games to 1 in the 2000 World Series.

Now, as much as I hate the Mets, and always enjoy putting the Flushing Heathen in their place (2nd place, at least as far as the New York Tri-State Area is concerned), you would think that I would like Interleague play to continue indefinitely.

Wrong. I'll get to my reasons in a moment.

And you would think that, given the humiliations that the Yankees have put on the Mets over the years (the 2000 World Series, the Mets only getting the advantage twice in 14 seasons, the Yanks having the only regular-season sweep, winning Mayor's Trophy Games in the Sixties and Seventies while the Yankees were winning, you know, Pennants; and Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Joe Torre all winning more World Series rings as Yankees than as Mets), Met fans would paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes On a Plane, and say, "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking losses in this motherfucking Interleague play!"

But, no, Met fans still look at these games like they're something special. They even use the term "Subway Series." No, you dumbasses, it's not a "Subway Series" unless it happens in the World Series. And there will never be another Subway Series unless A) it's Cubs vs. White Sox, an "El Series" or "Loop Series," and that hasn't happened since 1906, partly because, between them, they've won just 1 Pennant since JFK was elected; B) it's Giants vs. A's, a "BART Series," and even that may never happen against because the A's might move; or C) the Dodgers' financial woes become so bad that they actually have to right the now-ancient wrong and move back to Brooklyn where they belong.

Anyway... And this is not just for the sake of the Yankees, or the Mets, or either team's fans.

Top 5 Reasons Why Interleague Play Needs to Stop.

5. It messes up the schedule. For example, the Yankees only have 2 series per year against the AL Central teams, while having 2 series per year against the Mets and 1 against rotating divisions. Seriously, if you're a Yankee Fan, what would you rather do: Go see the Yankees play in Chicago against the White Sox, or sweat out 15 pounds of water on your way into the domes of Houston or Phoenix, 2 cities which don't have nearly as much to do as, oh, I don't know, Chicago? Or Cleveland? Or Minneapolis? Or Detroit, if you dare? Or even Kansas City? (Everything MIGHT be up to date in Kansas City these days.)

4. Too many matchups nobody cares about. Until they moved into their new ballpark this April, the Miami Marlins tarped over the upper deck at Dolphins Stadium (or whatever corporate name the damn thing is called this season) because they couldn’t sell out the 67,000 seats that are available in a baseball configuration. (They also couldn’t sell out the 38,000 seats said tarping-over limited them to. They're doing better at the new place, but that's largely due to the novelty. The games against their trans-Florida rivals didn't help attendance much, since the Rays averaged only 18,000 fans a night, and it’s 252 miles between their stadiums.)

3. The 2000 World Series. Face it, the only reason Interleague play existed at all was to make the 4 metropolitan areas that had 2 teams, 1 in each League, play each other: Yankees vs. Mets, Cubs vs. White Sox, Dodgers vs. Angels, Giants vs. A’s. (In each case, I’m listing the older team first; in each case, the older is also the more popular in that metro area.)

Yankees vs. Mets, and Giants vs. A's, have now happened in October, when it matters. Cubs vs. White Sox? Supposedly, their fans hate each other as much as Yanks & Mets fans, but there's a lot more overlap in the City of the Big Shoulders. Yankee Fans almost always root for the (football) Giants, Knicks, and either Rangers or Devils; Met fans, traditionally, almost always rooted for the Jets, Nets and Islanders, before the opening of the Meadowlands made some fans realign due to geography. There are not many Yankee/Jet fans, or Met/Giant fans (though there were some of the latter caused by the bandwagon year of 1986). I know some Met fans who also root for the Devils or Rangers, but very few Yankee Fans who also root for the Islanders. And with the Nets becoming a lame-duck team in 2004, throw the NBA loyalties out the window. But in Chicago? It doesn't matter what side of the baseball divide you fall on: You root for the Bears, the Bulls and the Blackhawks.

I don't know if there's any crossover in Southern Cal, and the moves of the Rams and Raiders changes that, and the distance between downtown L.A. and Orange County means more geographic solidity. But, let's face it, Dodger fans don't hate the Angels as much as they hate the San Francisco Giants. And Angel fans? They might hate the Dodgers, but the team they probably hate the most is not the A's up the coast, but... surprise, the Yankees.

Giants/49ers and A's/Raiders makes sense, but if they watch the other sports at all, they share the Warriors and the Sharks. Do Giants and A's fans hate each other? Not nearly as much. On the official 1989 World Series highlight film, there were a lot of people showing up at the Oakland Coliseum and Candlestick Park wearing stuff from both teams. One guy on the tape turned 2 jackets into a half-and-half, and another, wearing a half-and-half cap, held up a sign saying, "IF I GOTTA PICK -- GO A'S." If? If? Here's a way to decide: You hate the Dodgers? Then you root for the Giants; otherwise, you root for the A's.

2. Either have leagues, or don’t. In 2000, Commissioner Bud Selig eliminated the offices of the AL and NL Presidents. (Today, Jackie Autry, widow of Gene and former owner of the Angels, is the "honorary president" of the AL, while Bill Giles, Phillies co-owner and son of former NL President Warren Giles, for whom the NL trophy is named, is her NL counterpart. Their sole duty is to give the trophy to the Pennant-winning owner.) The 2000 season was also the first one in which the separate leagues' umpiring squads were dissolved and combined. (There are 22 active umpires who started out doing only NL games, 16 doing only the AL.) And since 2000, there are no "American League balls" and "National League balls" used in games, with the stamped signatures of the League Presidents, just "Major League Baseballs" with Selig's signature on them.

Apparently, the only reason there are still separate Leagues at all is that this is the way it has always been done. And we've seen what Seligula thinks about that. After all, he was the owner of the one team since 1892 to actually switch Leagues (the Milwaukee Brewers started in the AL in 1970 and moved to the NL in 1998).

So it stands to reason that, one day, Selig or his successor will do a radical realignment, so that MLB, like the NBA and the NHL, will have divisions based solely on geography and not on the ages of the teams. Though I've tried to lay it out, and while the Atlantic (Yanks, Mets, BoSox, Phils, O's & Nats) and Pacific (Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants, A's and Mariners) Divisions would work out all right, I'm convinced that, in order to make it work, there will have to be either expansion, contraction, or some team or other not just moving, but from one part of the country to another. (Heads up, Orlando, Charlotte and Salt Lake City!)

1. We already HAD Interleague play. It was called “the World Series.” There was something neat -- both as in "tidy" and as in "cool" -- to see two championship teams square off without having met in the regular season.

Interleague play had its time. And, like the color barrier, refusal to play games on Sundays or at night, artificial turf, non-retractable roofs, and uniforms with brightly-colored pullover jerseys and elastic waistbands, that time has come and gone.

In fact, 2010 should have been the last year for Interleague play. You know why? Because the World Series turned out to be between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, and clinched at what's now called Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, with the Giants winning. This was the exact combination for the first-ever regular season Interleague game, on June 12, 1997. That would have been a fitting way to put an end to it.

Maybe the Yankees can put up the best possible argument for ending it: Sweeping the Mets. Nah, we tried that in 2003, and it didn't work. Oh well: Do it anyway!

Meet the Mets! Meet the Mets!
Step right up and beat the Mets!
Bring your kiddies, and bring your wife!
They'll beat the Mets to within an inch of their life!
Because the Mets are really dropping the ball!
They've got their backs up against the wall!
East Side, West Side
everyone's watching them go down!
'Cause they're the M-E-T-S, Mets
the New York clowns!

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