Abolish Interleague play. Demolish it. Disfigure it. Then burn it’s decrepit carcass. Interleague play is ruining baseball.
Or at the very least partially responsible. Contrary to the thoughts of those younger then 25, regular season interleague play is a fairly recent phenomenon. Not having been established until 1997, as a result of the owners and Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig trying to renew the public’s interest in Baseball. The leagues up until 1999 even had their own individual Presidents, operating as quasi-individual entities. Now the only difference separating the leagues is the Designated Hitter rule in the American League.
Interleague play used to be a treat, only reserved for the most sacred of events, the All Star Game and the World Series. Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle faced off in the 1963 World Series for 3 at bats, and once in the 1963 All Star Game by my estimation, their only match-ups in their illustrious careers. Koufax registering 3 strike outs by the way (Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb9nEdBskXg). To compare to a modern day match-up, Clayton Kershaw v. Mike Trout, they have already faced-off 5 times, 3 in the regular season and twice in All-Star Games, and this in only 4 years of Trout’s career.
With the fairly recent advent of interleague play, the All-Star Game and World Series have become less sacrosanct. These cherished match-ups, like Kershaw and Trout, will become rote, irrelevant and more or less inconsequential. Ratings for the sacred events have shown this irrelevance. The All-Star game had 18 Million viewers in 1998. In 2015 we have fallen to an all-time low of 10.9 Million(1). The World Series is in a similar squalid state of affairs. In 1998 registering over 20 Million viewers, in 2014 dropping to 13.8 Million (3). In 2015 we also had the dubious distinction of having the lowest viewed Game 1 in the history of the sport, with about 12.2 Million viewers (4). Obviously there are other factors effecting baseball viewership; such as demographics change, length and lack of youth involvement, but surely Interleague play is not helping, and in all likelihood hurting.
This year each team will play 20 games of interleague play, with on average of 1 to 3 games per day (4). For the most part, every day we will have an interleague match-up. How did this come about? Before 2013, the National League had 16 teams and the American League had 14, to even up the leagues the league asked, or more like told, the Houston Astros to move to the American League. Since 15 is an uneven number, and because of how Baseball is played, everyday, interleague play became a necessity.
Currently Baseball is ruminating on adding 2 more teams to the already fairly large fold. Potential candidates include Las Vegas, Northern New Jersey and Montreal, Canada among others (5). I’ll go into my thoughts on this in a later post, but the only way I would support yet another league expansion (6), and diluting the already diluted supply of above replacement players is if, and only if, it involved the abolition of interleague play and the reinstatement of league pride. Remember that little phenomenon? League pride? Remember when former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and lifetime Yankee season ticket holder/fan, said in 2007, during the Red Sox v. Rockies World Series, that he would be rooting for the Red Sox because he was a fan of the American League? (7) You know the Red Sox and Yankees have a little rivalry right?
Since the league and owners primary motive is to make money, they would be reluctant to get rid of the inter-regional match ups, such as Mets v. Yankees, Giants v. Athletics etc, as these are great sources of ticket sales and TV viewership. I can acquiesce and allow, because I am in the position of being arbiter in this situation, for a once year four game series between the teams, with two games played in each home stadium respectively. This is the maximum I would be willing to relent, as self-appointed arbiter, in terms of interleague play in a 32 team environment. And if expansion doesn’t appeal to the owners, and let’s be honest it probably will, we can always consider those dreaded combination of words…league contraction, I know it’s terrifying, at least in the eyes and wallets of the owners. If we reduce the amount of teams to 28, 14 in either league, we solve that elusive odd number quagmire. If you allow me to go into even more horrifying thoughts, we could shorten the schedule to 154 games so we can have less of those hated and boring divisional match-ups. Can you sense the sarcasm? I’ll stop before I scare the owners bank accounts into the 9 digits, like they’re reading this anyway.
To reiterate my previously stated point. Abolish interleague play. Abolish it now.
I’ll see you at the Ballpark.