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.