Jim Leyland blasts interleague play

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Jim Leyland’s Tigers begin a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday, and he’s not at all happy about it or interleague play in general:

The appeal of interleague play, Leyland said, “has worn off for me. It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it has run its course.” He knows that higher-ups, such as his good friend Commissioner Bud Selig, won’t want to hear it, but Leyland spoke his mind all the same. “I’ll probably get chewed out for (saying) it,” he said, “but I think a lot of people feel the same way … I’m on the (Commissioner’s) committee, and I’ll probably get a phone call,” said Leyland, “but I don’t really care. That’s totally ridiculous.”

This is shocking. Not Leyland’s feelings, but that he’s on one of Bud’s committees and has a dissenting view.  To hear Selig tell it, every committee he has ever formed was unanimous in its agreement with whatever proposals he had. Who knew that wasn’t the case?

As for Leyland: his beef is that interleague play is unfair.  Particularly for the Tigers who, between Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila have three great bats and only two positions in which to put them when playing in an NL park. Which does kind of stink, but there is some evening out of that when NL teams visit AL parks and have to use a bat that normally isn’t worthy of being in the lineup as their DH.

The more fundamental unfairness of interleague play in my mind is that it leads to teams in the same division playing different schedules.  If your “designated rivalry” team is really good, you’re getting a tougher draw than another team in your division who plays more games against also-rans.  Combine this with the fact that the unbalanced schedule means that wild card competitors often face varying degrees of scheduling difficulty and the unfairness of it all is exacerbated.

One game often makes the difference in a pennant race. And baseball has intentionally pursued a scheduling strategy that slants the toughness of the competition by more than a game.  Which is absolutely maddening even if the financial incentives behind interleague play are obvious.

So spout off all you want, Jim.  You’re not alone in thinking that interleague’s novelty has worn off and the benefits at this point are outweighed by the problems.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.