Excessive Interleague Play

Since the Houston Astros will be moving from the National League Central to the American League West, each league will have exactly fifteen teams of three symmetrical five-team divisions.  The desire for more equity makes sense, but one big drawback is Interleague Play will be increased from 15-18 games to 30 games and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

With an odd number of teams in each league, anytime all thirty teams are playing, at least one of the fifteen games will be an Interleague game.  Eighteen games against the four opponents in your own division (72), six against the ten in the other two divisions (60), and thirty Interleague games (30); total 162.

The purpose of the second wild card and the single game showdown prior to the mainstream postseason is to put the emphasis on winning the division by making finishing first a shoe-in for the League Division Championship Series and the two wild cards a lottery ticket where in a one game playoff, favorites and underdogs are de-emphasized and any team can win on any given day and the wild card playoff game is no exception.  I agree with that philosophy, but if you are going to tell a 100-win wild card team (say the division champ wins 106) going up against a team 82-20 with no recourse if they are upset by the epitome of mediocrity, well, then, go out an win your division for crying out loud…the purpose of the two-wild card system is thwarted by virtue of the fact that you are not giving this 100 win team enough games in their own division to do that.  In a 162 game season, at least 82 games (half plus one) should be played in one’s own division.  If the teams played twenty-one contests against the four division opponents, they would be playing 84 in their own division and be over the hump.  But with the necessity to play thirty Interleague games due to each league having fifteen, and odd number of teams, this is not mathematically possible.

Furthermore, almost twenty percent of the schedule is now Interleague.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but unlike other sports, there is a major rule disparity between the two major leagues—in the National League, pitchers hit for themselves; in the American League, they use the designated hitter.  Many purists fear this means the National League will ultimately get the designated hitter.  Though NL fans like me would rather see pitchers hitting in both leagues, the former scenario is easier to achieve without disrupting the CBA and player-owner relations.  The American League has used the DH since 1973 (going on forty years) and since its inception, many players have been signed as full time DHs by American League teams.  The owners and the Player’s Association would have to figure out what to do with those players—keep in mind, many of them are older players who still have some pop in their bats but just can run or play a position in the field anymore.  This would never be an issue if each league could continue to have an even number of teams and Interleague Play were just a small blip on the radar screen of an MLB schedule.  Purity is going down the tubes.

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