What's the deal with the new interleague schedule?
And now, with 15 teams in each league, a year-round interleague schedule is a necessity. I don't mean to sound like one of those people that reminisces about the old days every time Facebook changes a feature, but this baseball, a game defined by its history and records.
I don't resent the fact that the game has changed over the years; the curveball, lights for night games, the DH, and instant replay all had their fair share of criticism but were necessary in the development and modernization of the sport.
I just don't see the point of interleague play.
Is the point to make a level playing field where every team competes in the same way? If that's the case, we need to get rid of the DH (or implement it in the NL), force uniformity with regards to ballpark dimensions, and create a salary cap. None of those things are going to happen any time soon.
It seems that the best explanation for instituting this year-round interleague schedule is that it was the least upsetting way to solve the problem of having an odd number of teams in each league. It is a relatively small change compared to eliminating divisions, expansion, or any other large-scale solutions.
My fear is that this was a first step towards a larger goal of creating uniformity between the two leagues. That in a couple more years, we'll go from one interleague game a night to three and before you know it there will be no more distinction between the two leagues.
That distinction that exists within the sport is one of baseball's most interesting and unique qualities. No other sport has anything like it. That's what makes the All-Star game novel (they used to have two All-Star games a year but it diluted the product so they switched back to just having one).
The difference between leagues is also what makes the World Series so unique in sports. The fact that each league has its own specific style and that strategies have to change when they play each other make their rare meetings that much more fascinating.
The counterargument is that this change was a tidy way to even out the divisions and by introducing fans and teams to new markets, it breaks the monotony of a long season and pits teams against teams that they never would've played otherwise.
Tonight, for example, the Dodgers will be in Baltimore to face the Orioles. Orioles fans don't get a chance to see Matt Kemp so they're slightly more likely to watch the game. That may be true, but fans of the other 14 NL teams like to watch Matt Kemp too.
And if you're easily bored and require constant change and excitement, then baseball probably isn't the sport for you to begin with. It may not be sexy, but the slow grind of the baseball season is part of what gives it its charm. On a July evening, months into a long season, is the excitement surrounding the rare Blue Jays-Phillies matchup really going to increase ticket sales or TV ratings?
I like that the two leagues produce different styles of baseball which results in people genuinely believing that one philosophy is better than the other. I like that managers can benefit from bringing some aspects of small ball to their AL club or that you can complement an NL lineup by saying that it looks like an AL lineup.
Like with most changes to the game, I'm sure I'll get over my reservations after something exciting or beneficial to my favorite team happens. But until then, I will be mourning the implementation of the year-round interleague schedule and hoping that they don't take it another step further simply for marketing purposes.