Thanks to the Astros, interleague play will never look the same again.
Let’s face it, interleague play’s biggest flaw is that it always looks the same. After 16 years of trying, Major League Baseball has failed to deliver what it promised. Maybe the Astros can fix that.
By moving to the American League West division next season, Houston will provide a balance between the leagues and provide Bud Selig the chance to give baseball fans what they’ve wanted.
Baseball fans love their teams, without a doubt. They religiously follow the daily ups and downs and to invest themselves in their local heroes.
Baseball fans also take great interest in other teams and visiting stars. Maybe they like to root against them, maybe they’re interested in seeing the worlds best performers.
How else do you explain the attendance bump when the Yankees go to Anaheim? Or when Barry Bonds filled random ballparks on Tuesday nights? What’s the explanation for the way fans show for interleague play?
Give Bud Selig credit, that much he gets.
Baseball fans love baseball. Cardinal faithful in St. Louis are fascinated to see a player like Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki. The folks in Denver come out to see stars like Derek Jeter.
But interleague play has failed to accomplish its mission: bring every team to every city.
Did you know that in 16 years of interleague play, the Padres have never been to Toronto? That’s ridiculous. The Rangers haven’t gone to St. Louis (during the regular season, anyway). The Dodgers never visited old Yankee Stadium. Worse, they haven’t even been to new Yankee Stadium.
Are you telling me that Yankees fans wouldn’t have been interested in seeing Joe Torre return as the skipper of a proud NL franchise?
Then again, fans were entertained by the Tigers and Pirates six times this season. Or punished.
The Braves have never been to Kansas City. I could see some story lines there, too: Braves’ president John Schuerholz returns to the place he made his name as Royals GM. He runs into ex-Braves there – including Royals GM Dayton Moore, manager Ned Yost, and Jeff Francouer.
But then, what could be more compelling than the Red Sox and Marlins for six games? A lot.
In 16 years, we couldn’t figure out how to get the Twins to Atlanta? Come on.
So take some pride, Astros fans, because your team is giving Selig a chance to fix the problem. Somebody had to do it.
With the Astros squaring Major League Baseball’s two leagues at 15 teams apiece next year we’ll see interleague matchups all season. I’m not here to debate the merit of interleague play in general — that’s something we can delve into some other day. For the moment, let’s even forget the various flaws presented by year-round interleague (like an interleague series on the final weekend deciding post-season spots. Ugh.).
Instead, let’s think about what that could mean for the schedule.
Done correctly, one AL division would align with one NL division and they’d rotate every year. Teams would be assured of playing every team from the other league once every three years. Competitive fairness would be restored. The so-called “natural rivalries” can take a back seat for now, as far as I’m concerned. When those rivalries come together in future years, the intensity will only heighten. It could be great.
Attendance for interleague games was 15.8% higher than other MLB games this year. And overall attendance is up 8.1% in 2012. Selig is on the right track.
But stop telling us that the Tigers and Pirates are natural rivals. We’re not that dumb. Give fans what was promised 16 years ago – a chance to celebrate the great talent on every team in the big leagues.
I guarantee fans will come out to watch. Right?