Revised interleague play coming

During yesterday’s press conference, Bud Selig was asked about what shape interleague play would take, now that realignment into two 15-team leagues has been locked in. Perhaps the most experimental notion was to reverse the advantage the two leagues currently have, by having pitchers hit in AL parks while deploying the DH in NL parks. For some of you it may seem blasphemous. I’m not partial to that change or the status quo. I can see some grumbling among fans in one-team markets, since as a fan you might pay to see a DH in your home park and he may be relegated to the bench in this scenario.

2013 MLB divisional realignment

For me, the bigger news is the change to scheduling. Under the new CBA, teams can play up to 20 interleague games per year. For most AL teams it’s 18, for NL teams it’s either 18 or 15. Now with fully balanced divisions and leagues, all teams can be expected to play 18-20 interleague contests per season. If MLB wants each division to play a scheduled interleague division straight up, that translates to 15 games per team, plus a certain number against the crosstown rival (if applicable). Since 15 games is not an even number, and because a team like the Mets is stuck getting hammered by the Yankees every year, the crosstown rival series may be trimmed to 3 games in one park or a 2+2 home-and-home set. In the latter scenario it’s still not an even number (19 total interleague games), so that odd number would have to be accounted for somehow.

Naturally, this means that for the A’s, they’d only play the Giants in Oakland every other year, a sure revenue hit. The A’s are the team that benefits most from the current 3+3 crosstown rival scheduling format, far more than the Chicago, LA, NY, or Beltway teams, all of whose attendance figures are less impacted by the crosstown series than the A’s.

Then again, it might be nice to have invading Giants fans only once every other year. They’re like in-laws, I guess.

I have a number of other questions about how the format will work:

  • When the AL West is playing the NL West with the established crosstown rivalries, will MLB hold to the reduced games? If it does, will it schedule another three-game series between teams in other divisions to get the total up to 18? (Math: 4 or 5 series x 3 games + 3, 4, or 6 vs. crosstown rival)
  • Since the crosstown rivalry series makes for efficient travel (the A’s played in SF at the end of a road trip this season, for instance), how much will MLB explore the 2+2 format?
  • Will some teams push for the opening and closing series as part of their interleague schedule? Or will they run away from it?
  • Will MLB try to force teams without natural rivals to lock in rivalries?

Selig has admitted that this is the kind of stuff that he geeks out about, and I’m kind of in the same boat with him there. Whatever your feeling on the changes, the result should be more equitable to all teams than the current format. Interleague play is no longer an annual aberration to be endured, it’s here all season long and it’s here for good.

58 thoughts on “Revised interleague play coming

  1. That Allan. What a charmer!

  2. I say get rid of the “crosstown” rivalries thing altogether. Sure it’s a nice attendance boost for some of the teams (those that wouldn’t have a sellout regardless of opponent) that play in shared markets, but it’s rather mundane for all the others.

  3. How about a two and two game series Thursday through Sunday. Flipping the weekend half and weekday half every other year. I guess it would be awkward for teams like Seattle, Toronto, Arizona and so on, but since I’m not a fan of any of those teams… Anyway, just a thought.

    I’m more interested in how the whole dh/pitcher having to hit thing is going to play out. Why not just have a dh for both leagues so we don’t have to endure the boring inning where it’s the eighth, ninth and lead off guy coming to bat and instead have a designated fielder position to counter the designated hitter spot. Give me a super sucky batting short stop or catching wizzard every day as long as he wouldn’t have to hit.

  4. Because many fans prefer it when the pitcher bats as they should.

  5. I like the flip flop of league rules. I think it’s brilliant.
    .
    I’ll miss home and home series. I may be the only guy who loves interleague, it’s fun to talk trash with my Giants fan friends. It seems only logical that every team will have a designated rival and every team will play 6 interleague series each season. In seasons where the divisions align do that the rivals play as a normal part of the season, they should play a second time.

    The only question becomes, who the heck are the Astros rival? The rangers rival? Etc.

  6. @Dan
    Hey Dan do u think the A’s can get Washington’s Roy Harper

  7. @Chi – Please keep the thread on topic. There is no “Roy Harper” on the Nationals. There is a Bryce Harper, and you’d have to be crazy or thoroughly ignorant of his status and talent to think he can be traded for at all.

  8. Chi – That’s a clown question, bro.

  9. I’m thinking the A’s should go after Roy Munson.

  10. What I have been wondering since hearing about the balancing of the leagues was the final regular season series. It seems inevitable that a controversy will come out of only two teams playing interleague games. Does having more teams finish with interleague make more sense, if not every team? Will the September cluster of itradivision games be effected, replaced with playing each team in the corresponding division of the other league, proliferating most of the regional rivalries? All we know for sure is that expanding to 32 teams is not the simpleist fix.

  11. Also, had the decision to go ahead with this come a year later, would MLB be trying to impose a league change on the Padres in the midst of there sale?

  12. I know that there are two teams that never played at the Coliseum. The Washington Nationals (ex-Montreal though not counting the one visit in June of 2003), and the Chicago Cubs. With this kind of Interleague play, teams that have not hosted at other stadiums will get a chance to play at their stadium. The A’s never played at Miller, Marlins or Nationals Park, so this may work out to the best of their advantage.

  13. The teams that play in the opening Inter-league series should be the teams from each league with the worst record in the season before.

    The last Inter-league series should feature the teams that lost the League Championship Series from the post season prior.

  14. How about everyone plays 21 interleague games? Two cross town rival series (6 games) and 5 series (15 games) with the division du jour. On years where west plays west, reduce the number of interleague games to 18 (2 series against rivals, then 4 series against the other teams in the division.

  15. One thing to remember if they go with the 18 model (15 rotating and + 3 rivalry): every three years, the rivals would also match up based on the divisional rotations. So the A’s would still host the Giants 2 out of every three years. Typically, I think most of Bud’s radical changes (wild card, interleague, etc.) have been good, and I think that this in general will be a positive, but hate the silly DH switch idea; hopefully he gets talked out of it. I personally prefer AL baseball much more than NL, and I know a lot of NL fans who feel the exact opposite. Just seems like a ridiculous XFL gimmick, like determining home-field advantage for the World Series in an exhibition.

  16. Not everyone has a “crosstown” rival. Forget about it, use the NFL model and play division vs divison on a rotating basis….when A’s/Giants (or other natural rivalries) come up, it’ll be all the more special.

  17. I agree that the NFL model of rotating divisions seems to make the most logical and consistent sense, as opposed to getting into these messy scheduling scenarios all for the sake of preserving a few annual, interleague crosstown rivalries. While those rivalries are fun and provide an extra boost in fan interest (especially for teams such as the A’s, who could use all the fan interest they can get), MLB can live without having them played out yearly. If anything, crosstown rivalries could benefit from not having to be watered down by the annual home-and-home series. Besides, divisional rivalries (you know, the ones where more than just bragging rights are at stake?) are much more compelling in my opinion. 😉

    As for the DH rule, I would be thoroughly disappointed if the NL were to adopt it, or the AL were to abolish it. I don’t know, but its just something about the quirkiness of having the two leagues use different rules that adds to the mystical aura and uniqueness of baseball.

    • As for the DH rule, I would be thoroughly disappointed if the NL were to adopt it, or the AL were to abolish it. I don’t know, but its just something about the quirkiness of having the two leagues use different rules that adds to the mystical aura and uniqueness of baseball.

      Yes. Again, we agree. You’re obviously a very wise man. I think it’s cool that the leagues aren’t exactly the same….I also see no need for the DH being used in NL parks/pitcher batting in AL parks proposal. Sometimes, its OK to leave well enough alone.

  18. The way I see it, there are 8 sets of natural rivals (Oak/SF, NYY/NYM, ChW/ChC, LAA/LAD, Cle/Cin, TB/Mia, Bal/Was, KC/StL), and 7 pairs of teams without (Bos, Tor, Det, Min, Hou, Tex, and Sea in the AL, Phi, Atl, Mil, Pit, AZ, SD, and Col in the NL). So you play 18 IL games. 15 games will be 5 3-game sets against one whole division, and the other 3 will have the natural rivals playing each other and have the rest rotate among the other teams without a natural rival (so you’ll play a bonus series against each of the non-rivals every 7 years).

  19. I think the DH will be in both leagues within 10 years, but in the meantime, have the DH when the AL team is the road team. This will get the whiny NL fans used to it so it’ll be less of a shock when the DH takes over all of baseball.

  20. Hopefully not. One of the virtues of going to NL parks (other than Pac Bell because going to Pac Bell is a good way to lose ones soul) is to see the different brand of ball that is closer to the original. Why force the DH on fan bases that have no desire to see it? If Giants fans for instance want to see the Giants use a DH, come over to Oakland for the interleague games like they’ve been doing.

  21. Not understanding why so many people are in love with having a pitcher, who has no business standing in a major league batter’s box, get up to bat and hit .100 or so. Infielders and outfielders are expected to be able to hit, but pitchers are not. Otherwise, the Giants would have to cut Matt Cain and his .158 batting average. He’s not getting the job done at the plate is he? So why not cut him? Well, because he’s a pitcher and is not expected to be proficient with a bat. So if that’s not expected of him, why have him stand in the batter’s box in the first place? To give fans some extra time to use the rest room perhaps?

  22. @Brian – I think you’ve got the proper format for interleague play going forward. I have to point out that MLB considers MIN-MIL a geographical rivalry, which makes some sense. Not so sure about DH adoption.

  23. Now that there will be 15 teams per league, interleague play will be best suited for expansion to 48 games per team per season.

    A particular team can host a three game series against seven teams from the opposing league and would be the visiting team for the other seven teams. To round out the 48 game interleague schedule, have a six game crosstown or cross regional interleague series.

    Division games can and should be reduced to 12 games per team (12 x 4 = 48) and intra league games would be 6 games each (6 x 10 = 60). With all this, 156 games are hand delivered while competitive balance is restored.

  24. It seems to me that you could come up with a system by which everybody has a geographic or “natural” interleague rival:
    .
    NYY – NYM
    CWS – CHC
    LAA – LAD
    TB – MIA
    OAK – SF
    KC – STL
    BAL – WAS
    BOS – PHI
    MIN – MIL
    CLE – CIN
    TOR – ATL (only remaining East Division teams)
    DET – PIT (only remaining Central Division teams)
    SEA – SD (only remaining teams in the Pacific Time Zone)
    TEX – COL
    HOU – AZ

  25. pjk, several reasons. One, NL games are faster than AL games because of the pitcher’s lack of skill. At a time when people do nothing but bitch about the length of games you’d think going back to the basics of the game (where the pitcher bats) would occur to MLB’s higher ups. Second, it adds a level of strategy to the game where managers actually have to manage the game calling for interesting plays like double switches, suicide squeezes, and other measures with the 8 and 9 batters. Third, occasionally a pitcher does get a hit (often bigger than it would have been because the damn fielders don’t expect him to get a hit and are caught somewhat unaware) and in the process helps his own cause. I’ve seen several NL games where it’s the pitcher himself who sparks the rally or scoring that leads to his W at the end of the game. And fourth, there’s the beaning issue. I always like to see a pitcher have to stand in the box and take the retaliation pitch in the ass himself rather than some hapless teammate having to take it for him because the pitcher is tucked safely away in the dugout like in the AL.

  26. I used to be against the DH. Mainly because I found the AL had too many pitching changes. Those innings where a righty starts it, lefty comes in to face one hitter, then back to a righty, just grinds the games to a halt. In the NL that happens a lot less, as managers focus pitching changes around when the pitcher is due to bat. The benches in the NL are stretched.

    However, I’ve seen so many big name players coming to the AL, and its mainly because those long term contracts can be absolute cripplers to an NL team. No NL team in their right mind would give Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols more than 6 years because there is no DH slot to transition them to. So I think the NL needs a DH to level the playing field.

  27. @Dan – You want faster games? Convince the ump to enforce rule 8.04:
    .
    “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
    The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.”
    .
    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/pitcher_8.jsp

  28. …Pitchers can make $10 million, $20 million or so a year to pitch. They are simply not paid to hit. It is foolhardy to put them in the batter’s box and risk injury doing something they are expected to fail at doing. In the AL, fans get to watch nine major league-class hitters a side. In the NL, they watch 8 hitters and the comedy of a pitcher holding a bat. Sometimes, evolution is necessary: in basketball, there used to be a tipoff at center court after each basket. In football, players used to be expected to play both offense and defense.

  29. Sorry, couldn’t help it 🙂

    Hats Off to (Roy) Harper:

  30. John wins the thread.

    Meanwhile, Chi’s taking a timeout with Bauce.

  31. pjk, Where does it end? The logical end to your argument is that you have defensive players and offensive players like the NFL. A lot of fielders are paid big money to hit and the team lives with the fact they need to play on First or Right Field.

    The DH kills baseball strategy. Tony L. has done many interviews explaining why he enjoyed managing in the NL better than the AL.

  32. pjk, don’t want to risk batting, don’t sign with an NL club. One of baseball’s best traits is that there is an actual distinction between the AL and NL. Rather than the separation being arbitrary like it has been in say the NFL since the AFL/NFL merger.

  33. The Raiders are the only team that should get a new stadium in the coliseum area… once there stadium is done.. then the A’s could take down mount davis and reconfigure the stadium back to a ballpark… Oracle can be brighten up a bit… i like how TW pointed out to more murals.. more art around the coliseum area.. because Oakland is a very artistic city… this would be a cheaper coliseum city and as i pointed out .. three things… #1 a public vote of funding… #2 clorox and knauss to stay true to their word and help out as an investor and #3 the teams and league.. this move can transform Oakland and keep all teams happy…

  34. re: pjk, Where does it end? The logical end to your argument is that you have defensive players and offensive players like the NFL. A lot of fielders are paid big money to hit and the team lives with the fact they need to play on First or Right Field.

    …How does extending the DH to the NL lead to 9 different defensive players and 9 different batters? Nobody is calling for that and no way do owners want to pay for it. The AL has had the DH since the ’70s and not once has anyone called for that scenario.

  35. They’d never do this, but the most logical NFL-style split suggestion I’ve seen is this:

    Three games vs. all teams in two other divisions of other league (rotating) = 30 games

    Home and home three game series with the two other divisions in same league = 60 games

    18 games vs. teams in your division = 72 games

    Everybody in the same division plays the same schedule. Still play “rivals” 2 of 3 years, host rivals 1 of every 3. No stupid 2 game series. Fair, predictable, with strong emphasis on division rivalries.

  36. pjk,

    i’m simply pointing out that the argument “pitchers are paid to pitch” thus a need for the DH is flawed. Many batters are paid primarily for hitting and not defense. Do we need designated fielders?

    The DH is never going away in the AL for reasons we all understand. I would probably boycott baseball for a few years if the NL ever went to the DH. Its simply isn’t the type of baseball i or many other NL fans enjoy.

  37. Batting lineups with the DH turn over like machines, while those with the pitcher cycle down to moments of drama that result in surprise and delight, as well as dismay and anguish. Rallies die there — but, as others have said, often they don’t. The strategic decisions are also interesting. But there’s a larger overriding reason to dislike the DH. In the NL, pitchers have to play the entire game. In the AL, pitchers and DHs alike, including some DHs too old or too battered or too fat to field anymore, get away with playing half the game. As the Giants showed in 2010 vs. the Rangers, a good NL staff can deal with the DH, but a good AL team has trouble dealing without it.

  38. if my math is correct, the AL has won 21 of 38 World Series played since the AL adopted the DH. Sounds like the AL has done well enough against the NL.

  39. I was afraid this would happen. Look, the AL and NL play distinctive styles of ball in terms of rolling out rosters, lineups, and in-game strategy. It’s entirely subjective. I think Selig is doing this because of the ongoing AL dominance of the NL during interleague play (AL has the winning record for the last nine years). I’m not certain if that this will make any measurable difference.

  40. Mark (the other one), that’s probably the best scenario I’ve seen as well. Preserves natural interleague rivalries, maintains focus on divisional and intraleague play, all while keeping the schedule neat and tidy. Best of all worlds, no?

    This debate over the pros and cons of the DH is precisely why I would favor in keeping the status quo. Don’t like the DH? Go watch NL baseball. Think the concept of the pitcher hitting is too old-fashioned and not in with the times? Switch to AL. Everyone is happy, no one is forced to have anything “imposed” on them, and baseball gets to stay just that much more beautiful.

  41. Pjk: yeah I agree. I personally prefer NL ball but the AL has dominated.

  42. I assume that by “Beltway teams” you are referring to my Washington Nationals and our neighbors the Baltimore Orioles. Mind if I ask one request? If you don’t want to write “Balt./Wash.” and think “Beltway” is a good way to identify the region, then at least get your highways straight.

    It’s “Beltways”, not “Beltway.”

    Baltimore isn’t a suburb of Washington, and it has a separate (and bigger) Beltway encircling that city than the better known rush-hour parking lot that surrounds Washington, D.C. MASN refers to the annual Nats-Orioles games as “The Battle of the Beltways.” If we can use the plural, so can you.

  43. One advantage of the DH in NL parks is that certain stars from the AL can play all the games in the NL parks. If you believe the allure of interleague is fans seeing stars they don’t normally see, this would be in perfect alignment with that.

  44. @Edward

    I’d give ML the benefit of the doubt here; “Beltways teams” probably triggered some sort of grammar Nazi reflex when pegging this article. 😉

  45. @Edward J. Cunningham – Noted. Had no idea it was Beltways, plural.

  46. JK writes “I’m thinking the A’s should go after Roy Munson”. LOL, awesome line. That’s the equivalent of a home run in the blogging world.
    Unfortunately for the A’s, they already did get Munson(ed) via the Giants

  47. See the article linked below, which offers a pretty good summary and overview as of game 1 in 2009. Then consider the WSs wherein the NL had home field advantage (2010 and 2011). Don’t be afraid of the facts. (E.g., fact: 7 of the AL WS wins since 76 were courtesy of the Yankees. Is that *AL* domination?)
    .
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/sports/baseball/28dh.html

    • See the article linked below, which offers a pretty good summary and overview as of game 1 in 2009. Then consider the WSs wherein the NL had home field advantage (2010 and 2011). Don’t be afraid of the facts. (E.g., fact: 7 of the AL WS wins since 76 were courtesy of the Yankees. Is that *AL* domination?).http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/sports/baseball/28dh.html

      Were the Yankees members of the Americam League at the time?

  48. The Giants got Munsoned by signing Zito away to that contract, so all’s fair.

  49. Hecanfoos is right on the money.Get rid of these “Rivalry Games” The NFL model with rotating divisions is perfect. In the MLB these games played every year have always bothered me.Teams are battling for wild card spots, yet they all play different teams.Somebody may secure the WC spot by 1 game.Just doesn’t seem right. Concerning flip flopping the dh rules,kind of strange at first thought.Sounds like a Selig experiment.I hope this is not some strategy to shake things up or blur the the distinction between the leagues, so that down the road the 2 leagues would be merged. I just don’t trust Selig’s motives on just about anything..

  50. xoot… it is AL domination if the team that came out of the AL won more often than the team from the NL. Is it not?

  51. Well, I tried. I hoped maybe we could find some common ground as to the Yankees.

  52. Common ground noted. Yankees can bite. But it isn’t logical to assume that because the Yankees won a bunch of world series that the AL was somehow weaker than the NL.

  53. I didn’t assume anything. I simply proposed setting aside the great monopolist of the game, temporarily, while we evaluated the other more admirable baseball clubs who have played in the WS since 1976.

  54. SMH…

    Brewers –> back to the AL Central

    KC –> AL West

    Astros –> stay in the NL Central

    Thank you Bud for missing the obvious and completely disregarding history

  55. ….and yes, i know of Bud’s family connections to the Brew Crew

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