Interleague is upon us again this season, with some fans foaming at the mouth to see teams and players they only get to see once in a blue moon. For fans, Interleague is almost comparable to Christmas in the fact that even if their team doesn't make the playoffs, they'll still get to see how they stack up to the other side. On the other side of the coin, you'll hear a lot of purists say that Interleague has been ruining the game since it's inception back in the late 90's, and that the only time the two leagues should meet is in the World Series. Hopefully with this I can shed some light and make you think differently about it.
As a kid growing up in the pre-interleague era I always wondered what it would be to see my team take on a National League powerhouse or visit a historic park like Wriggley Field. Well now I can. There's a lot of teams benefitting from this because now their teams are being shown in different markets across the country and more people get to see them. Take last year's Giants for instance, nobody outside of the San Fransico area knew they were good, after seeing their team play them, they garnished a healthy respect for their NL counterpart. Would people have seen what Adrian Gonzalez had done when he was with San Diego with out the Padres roaming to American League parks to see him belt one out against their team? Probably not. Would people know how truly great the Phillies infield is without them roaming to other markets outside of the NL? nope. The impact of all of this, is that we truly would not get a real appreciation for these teams unless we saw them play.
For years Cities with two teams kept harping on about who's the better of the two. Ask anyone in the Chicago, New York, and even the Los Angeles areas and they'll give you their respected answers. But what about the cities where there is no history of a so called rivalry? One of the best examples to look at is the Phillies and Red Sox. Neither team really has a history with one another, but when they get together, it's some of the best baseball anyone gets to enjoy all season. Back when it first started you had a set "Rival Team" that you had, some worked, some didn't. Altanta and Boston? Sure there's a history between these two teams with the Braves being a former Boston team themselves, but were the games any good? Not really. In fact that was some of the more boring baseball I think I've watched in my entire life. The games were stagnant at best. After a while the league got the hint as to placing what series from Interleague generated the most buzz and ran with it.
Baseball is a business whether we like it or not. Without revenue generated from teams, there would be no league. With fans coming to visit unfamiliar ballparks it's almost a must to grab some kind of souvenir from the parks they visit. What about relocated fans who lived in a market from the other league that now are visiting the park where their team is playing? Their money is just as good to generate more revenue and even gives them a sense of being home to see their team play. Let's alos not forget the increases in ticket sales for when teams visit certain parks. When San Diego played the Yankees, the park is pretty much filled with die hard pinstripers who either once lived in New York or just people with no histroy of living in the area, but they love the team just as much. These things can't be overlooked in the fragile market that there is today.
With the casual fan really only taking part in watching the last 6 weeks of the season for their respected teams, what could get them hooked on before then? Interleague has played a part getting them to see their team early. It's also a great way to get fans to come in after watching a long basketball or hockey playoff run. It even brings on new debates. People even start talking about possible World Series match ups as well. There are plenty of them out there coming up. Sometimes you even see the match ups without even knowing it. In 2007 The Colorado Rockies visited Fenway for a three game set. After the series was over Rockies Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was quoted as saying "We'll be back in October.". Sure enough, four months later, there they were at Fenway Park taking on the Red Sox for the World Series. There are plenty of possibilites that could happen, you just have to stay tuned to see them happen.
We all know what happens when teams shift from league to league during this stretch. Someone has to be added or taken off the lineup for things to get going. For the AL teams, this means losing your designated hitter. Taking an extra bat off your line up could prove to be harmful to add the pitcher in to hit. For some teams, it's easier but for others it's harder. For teams like Baltimore and Boston, this means losing a hitter like David Ortiz and Vlad Guerrero. Where do these guys go? How do you juggle them into your line up to make it potent to take on your NL counterpart? Do you hide them somewhere in the field and hope that nothing happens? Luckily for both, they have experience playing positions, though they weren't the best at them defensively. What about the NL teams? How to they cope with this? Most NL teams don't have a big bopper coming off they can rely on to take a DH role effectively. If they do, they aren't on the bench that long. A good example may be back in the late 90's early 2000's when St. Louis had a problem fitting both Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire into the lineup. Interleague made it easier to fit both of them in. For players who switched leauges it's a way to get some familiarity to get them going. Could Adam Dunn benefit from an at-bat against the Diamondbacks tonight? It's very possible. He's seen these pitchers before and could possibly feast on their pitching to help Chicago's South Side team get the proverbial W.
I hope there's some light shed on this subject for you guys. Enjoy these next two weeks, if not for the game, then the fun aspect. As always stay true to your team. They may surprise you in this stretch.