The 15th edition of “Interleague Play” began yesterday with a bang. Amid much debate and scrutiny, the MLB is still keeping the tradition which began in 1997 alive. Now I understand where the debate is coming from. But I also understand why Interleague Play has been kept in tact and will probably continue to be for at least another few years. There are 2 sides to every story. So lets explore the pros and cons of this 15-year-old MLB tradition.
-Big time matchups that would not be possible unless the two teams met in the World Series come to fruition. For instance yesterday, two of the games most storied franchises went to battle at one of the most historically rich ballparks in all of baseball. I am of course talking about the Cubs and Red Sox squaring off at Fenway.
-Every year you get a couple of editions of the Subway Series or the Chicago Battle. In the 40s and 50s, it was of the norm to watch 2 New York teams square off for the National League crown, and then to watch 2 New York teams square off for the World Series. The town buzzes and the people love it, whether both teams are in contention or not. Also Chicago gets a taste of this every year when the Cubs take on the Sox. It is a great way to get some big cities excited.
-You also get series such as the Battle of Ohio. The Reds and Indians have developed a rivalry over the past 15 years thanks in entirety to Interleague Play. For once the state of Ohio gets a chance to buzz about something other than football (College or Pro).
-In addition, by the luck of the draw, you will occasionally get a matchup of the teams that sport the best records in their respective Leagues going head to head. A possible World Series Preview? Who would not enjoy to watch that?
-Lastly, and this is the main reason that Interleague Play is remaining in tact, it is a financial success. Remember. Professional sports at its heart are a business. Just look at what the NFL is dealing with right now. Sadly in our society, everything has become about the money. And for the MLB, Interleague Play is raking in the cash. In 2010, Interleague Play brought in an average of 33,253 fans per game. Want to know what the average attendance was for the rest of the season (non Interleague Play games)? Try 28,233 per game. That is a jump of over 5,000 fans per game, or 17.8%. In addition, this was no 1 year fluke. During the first 14 years of Interleage Play, Interleague games drew an average of 12% more fans than non Interleague Play games.
-League segregation was one of the key factors that made baseball unique from the other professional sports. Interleague Play has taken away that distinguishing factor.
-MLB schedules have had a history of being somewhat unbalance. And though Interleague play only accounts for 5% of the regular season games, it furthers the unbalanced nature of the schedules. By luck of the draw, the 1st play team in the NL Central could take on the last place teams out of the AL Central and AL East, while the last place team in the NL Central would take on the 1st place team out of the AL Central and AL East hypothetically. Now is that fair?
-It creates fake and unnatural rivalries in a way. Fans love rivalries. But many fans feel that Interleague Play forces rivalries to develop that have no business being rivalries.
-The difference in rules between the 2 Leagues creates and uneven playing field. In the American League, they utilize the designated hitter. So when they travel to National League ballparks, they are forced to alter their lineups and sit their DH. Is this fair for the AL team? Though ironically, the American League has dominated Interleague Play since its inception, sporting a record of 1,808 to 1,652 heading into Friday. Also though, National League teams are forced to alter their lineups and style of play when they head to American League ballparks. So it goes both ways.
-Lastly, many feel that Interleague play can hinder the uniqueness of the World Series. For instance in 2000, the Yankees and Mets met in the regular season. And then they met in the first “Subway Series” in well over 40 years. Did the regular season meeting take away from the mystique of meeting in the Fall Classic? I will leave that for you to determine.
So as you can tell, there are compelling arguments for both sides of the coin in this heated debate. I guess it would not be a “debate” if there were not viable reasonings on both sides of the spectrum. I personally do not see Interleague Play ending any time soon though due to the financially successful nature of it. As I have said many times before on this blog, money is what makes the world go round. Sadly, sports have become a business. Interleague Play creates more business, and therefore is not going anywhere in the near future. I will state though, I feel like the “cons “outweigh the “pros” from a purity aspect though. The creation of a very unbalanced schedule is the key fault of the system in my eyes. If a contending team in the National League draws a few bottom dwellers from the American League, while another contending team in the National League within the same division draws some League Leaders out of the American League, is this fair? Not at all. Though Interleague Play only makes up about 5% of the schedule, it still can be a huge factor in determining divisional champions.
What are your thoughts on Interleague Play? Are you Yay or Nay?
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.