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As much as I’ve enjoyed watching the Yankees sweep away both the Mets and Braves this past week, I have to admit I am already bored with interleague play. A whole month is just too long. It creates tedious and repetitive match-ups, especially for teams in places such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles that have “natural” rivals. Six “rivalry” games every year gets old.
I’m all for bragging rights, but by having those crosstown/regional rivalry games occur every couple of years or limiting them to a single three-game series, it helps those match-ups maintain a level of specialness. As it stands now, the Subway Series is the most unbalanced of all the interleague rivalry series. The Yankees are 52-35 against the Mets in regular-season play and own a .598 winning percentage—the highest by a team against an in-state opponent in interleague play history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s great that the Bombers can feast upon their lesser crosstown rivals; however, for me personally, the only Subway Series that truly mattered was the one in 2000 when the World Series was on the line. I mean, you can only tease your Mets-loving co-workers so much.
This year’s interleague schedule has the AL and NL facing opponents from their own regions, but for the Bombers, the scheduling is a bit bizarre. They play their usual home/away series against the Mets, but also play the Braves twice (home and away). They play the Nationals away, but do not face the Phillies or the Marlins at all. So much for all the beasts of the East facing off against one another.
Speaking of unbalanced, interleague play has helped to create an imbalance in scheduling — partly because there are these natural rivals playing both a home and away series against each other and partly because there are an uneven amount of teams in the West Divisions. Some of this should balance out when the Astros go over to the American League West next year, although that doesn’t do away with all of the disparity.
Even with its issues, I don’t think interleague play needs to be totally thrown out the window. As a fan, I have enjoyed some of the moments it’s created. Interleague play gave me the chance to see Mariano Rivera strike out Barry Bonds at the old Stadium and watch Tino Martinez return to New York as a St. Louis Cardinal (getting applauded when he homered), not to mention David Cone’s perfect game against the Montreal Expos. It’s just as it’s currently set up, interleague goes on too long. The 18 games would be better if they were pared down to 13. Make the whole affair last a week or two at the most.
If MLB wants to keep the attention of fans (both diehard and casual), it needs to make sure interleague play doesn’t turn into a snooze fest. I know you can only do so much about a San Diego/Seattle match up, but if the league pares down the scheduling, it can create some exciting moments … like the one I’m looking forward to seeing this weekend: five-time World Series champ Andy Pettitte pitching to rookie phenom Bryce Harper. I mean, when else would we get to see that? Except, of course, the World Series.