We are nearly through the first weekend of our annual baseball festival known as Interleague play. If the movers and shakers of Major League Baseball are right, your pulse is still pounding from the first two nights of Red Sox-Phillies action at Citizen’s Bank Park.
No doubt, people around the country have changed their plans today so they can catch once-in-a-lifetime matchups like Cincinnati vs. Detroit, Minnesota vs. Milwaukee, Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland and Toronto vs. Colorado.
After all, if not for Interleague, we wouldn’t get to see Matt Clement hit. Or David Ortiz play first. Or Josh Beckett renew his preseason grudge match with Ryan Howard.
Let’s face it, Interleague play isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. This is the 10th season the American League teams take 18 games out of the schedule to face select National League teams, and it’s time to revise the formula.
There’s no question this is a big weekend in some towns. The subway series between the Yankees and Mets is good stuff. The Cubs-White Sox series will mean a lot in Chicago, especially now that baseball fans in the Windy City know the World Champion White Sox exist. A’s fans are thrilled to get a chance to boo Barry Bonds as the Giants come across the bay for the weekend. I’ll even give you the series between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim In Orange County California vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. And I’ll thrown in the St. Louis-Kansas City series. If you must, we could include Texas-Houston and Florida-Tampa Bay… but I think those “rivalries” are a stretch.
The rest of these Interleague “showdowns” are not rivalries. For some reason, the Phillies have been deemed the “natural rivals” of the Red Sox, which we all know is a farce. There is no “natural rivalry” between Boston and the National League.
(You want to promote rivalries. Take the six games with Phillies off the schedule and throw in another half-dozen games with the Yankees. That’ll raise ratings!)
This season, the Sox get 18 action-packed games with the Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Mets, and Marlins. Other than the one night Pedro Martinez might again pitch in Boston (somehow, I see him missing those three games), there isn’t too much there to get excited about.
If Interleague play must continue, it should be streamlined. In the past, I’ve called for a 12-game Interleague schedule, but I’m starting to think that would be too much. How about six games? Three home, three away. Three with your natural (o, in the case of the Red Sox, unnatural) rival, and three with another team. That way you’ll only see a team once every 15 years. That should make the matchups a little more refreshing. And, while I’ve joked about adding more Yankees games to the schedule, it would be nice to see more of the AL. The Sox don’t go back to Cleveland again this season, and the Indians are one of the most exciting young teams in the game.
It’s time for Major League Baseball to let real rivalries grow. These manufactured AL vs. NL are all hype.
One more day of Interleague play for now. Hope these next three games against the Yankees aren’t too anticlimactic.
Lewiston native Tom Caron is a NESN analyst for Red Sox and Bruins telecasts.