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Blog Entry

3 to watch: The Is it over yet? edition

Posted on: June 18, 2010 9:30 am
Lakers-Celtics is a rivalry.

Dodgers-Red Sox? Not exactly, but at least the presence of Manny Ramirez at Fenway Park makes you think that interleague play is worthwhile.

For three more days.

Do you realize that we've got another full week of interleague play coming? Another full week of Royals-Nationals, Rangers-Pirates and Mariners-Brewers.

It's not going away, not for another week and not for another few decades. Bud Selig is convinced that fans love every minute of it, and he'll cook up the numbers to prove it.

So what that at least three teams felt the need to stage bobblehead nights this weekend to boost interleague attendance?

Part of the problem is that the interleague schedule no longer makes any sense. When baseball began interleague play in 1997, the idea was that it would be division vs. division, with each team in a division playing basically the same schedule, and with opponents rotating year-to-year. Every six years, the theory went, you'd get to see each team from the other league twice, once at home and once away.

That system didn't last, and now teams seem to be drawn together at random. The Phillies went to Yankee Stadium for an interleague series last year, and went right back there this week. The Tigers and Diamondbacks seem to play every year.

This year, the Red Sox play four of their six interleague series against teams that were in the 2009 playoffs. The Rays play none of their six against playoff teams.

The system is broken.

To fix it, I'd build off a suggestion Ken Davidoff made this week in Newsday . Ken wants interleague play shortened to one week, with an NFL style schedule that would have first-place teams play first-place teams, second-place teams play second-place teams, and so on.

Good idea, but it's not realistic to eliminate the traditional-rivalry games (Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Twins-Brewers, etc.), as Ken would do. These games still draw fans, they still draw interest, and they're still worth it.

So work out a plan that preserves those matchups (one series a season), and still gives us one week of interleague games under a system that makes sense.

And while you're working it out, here's this weekend's 3 to watch:

1. No, we haven't gone back on last week's vow to feature every Stephen Strasburg start. Not at all. In fact, when I got to Penn Station this morning, I almost got on the southbound Acela, headed towards White Sox at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park . But even Strasburg III couldn't keep me away from Mannymania.

2. How do you know interleague play lasts too long? When both Fox TV and ESPN pass on a Subway Series, that's how. The funny thing is that this weekend's series in the Bronx feels worthwhile, now that the Mets are winning again (thanks in part to a kind interleague schedule that sent them to Baltimore and Cleveland, while their rivals were stuck playing powerhouse teams). And Mets at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , features a pair of young nine-game winners, in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes.

3. For all the talk about how Manny is hated in Boston, when he left town on July 31, 2008, after the trade to the Dodgers, people came up to hug him at Logan Airport on his way out of town. They hate him, and they love him, and they'll likely do both again, in Dodgers at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Fenway Park . Manny is 6-for-26 with eight strikeouts in his career against Tim Wakefield, but the last of those at-bats came 10 years ago.

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