Interleague Play

On June 12, 1997, the Rangers hosted the San Francisco Giants at the ballpark in Arlington for the first ever game of interleague play. They’be just finished a three game set against those same Giants, but in San Francisco this time.

Now the Rangers will come home to play three games each against the Diamondbacks and Astros, go on the road for three against the Padres, and return home for a series with the Rockies. At the end of that stretch, the Rangers will have played 15 interleague games in 17 days.

Many people like interleague play, and I can understand why. It allows you to watch teams you otherwise wouldn’t see. Some people also like to see pitchers have to swing the bat. I don’t like either of these things. In fact, the stretch each year when interleague play is up and running is probably my least favorite part of the baseball season.

I’m not interested in seeing the National League teams. Part of that is because I simply don’t like National League baseball nearly as much as I like the brand with the designated hitter. I feel that it unnecessarily takes the ball out of the hands of good pitchers and the bat out of the hands of good hitters. It also slows the pace of the game down to a crawl in the late innings of a close contest.

Now, for that pitchers batting thing. I absolutely hate it. I realize that when any logic is applied, pitchers should have to bat just like everybody else. If that was the way it had always been, I doubt it would get complained about nearly as much. As it is, though, we have become spoiled by the designated hitter. It’s like letting somebody driving a Civic borrow your Maserati for a week. They’ll probably be pretty disappointed when they have to give it up. In the second inning against San Francisco on Friday, the Rangers got runners on second and third with only one out. Unfortunately, the pitcher’s spot was next in the order. With Matt Harrison swinging the bat, it may have well as been second and third with two outs…which is what it ended up being. The occasional pitcher’s duel is a great thing, but on a daily basis I like to see some runs being scored. Giving what is, for all intents and purposes, a free out each time through the order really hampers an offense.

Those complaints, though, only matter when the games take place in a National League park. Luckily, that is only the case for nine games for the Rangers this year (six in the current stretch and three in Houston earlier in the season). None of the National League style of play happens at the Ballpark in Arlington. I guess that is where the desire to see unfamiliar teams comes into play for some people. It doesn’t for me, though. I don’t go to the ballpark or turn on the TV to see the opponent. I’ve never been one to buy a ticket just because the Rangers are facing the Yankees or Red Sox, so having the Rockies in town certainly doesn’t make me any more likely to open my wallet. The games that draw more of my attention are ones that matter more. That means games against division rivals or possible playoff opponents. Games against National League teams are guaranteed to be neither. Sure, Texas could face one of their interleague opponents in the World Series, but that is way too far in the future to predict.

Some see a benefit in American League managers getting a taste of how they may handle things if they do make it to the World Series. Even that is quite different, though. Pinch hits, double switches, and pitching changes are much more important in October than they are in June. In June, a manager may opt to save his bullpen rather than go all in to win a relatively meaningless game. In the World Series, though, every game matters much more. I think that difference mitigates what “practice” managers may get in dealing with the different rules.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I don’t like interleague play. In total, the Rangers will play 18 games against National League teams during this regular season. That is enough games for two additional series against each division opponent. Instead of more meaningful baseball, we got to watch Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando bat (and therefore Ogando injure himself running out a bunt single). That hardly seems like a fair trade to me.

Chris Kautz is a Senior Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Chris.Kautz@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @SDIChris.
Chris Kautz

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