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Weekend Buzz: Interleague -- painful to watch, worse to play


The Weekend Buzz, while you were thinking maybe the nutjob preacher was confused and meant that the world will end with the conclusion of Oprah's final show Wednesday (stock up on canned goods and tissues!). ...

1. Ain't no cure for the Interleague Blues: It's tired, it's threadbare and, as managers Jim Leyland (Tigers), Joe Maddon (Rays) and Don Mattingly (Dodgers) said in recent days, it's unfair and it needs an overhaul.

Jim Leyland on interleague play: ''It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it's run its course.' (Getty Images)  
Jim Leyland on interleague play: ''It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it's run its course.' (Getty Images)  
Welcome to another year of interleague play. (Astros at Blue Jays! Twins at Diamondbacks!) Know what's just about as painful as watching pitchers hit? Watching National League batters impersonate designated hitters. With only Sunday night's Cubs-Red Sox game to be played, NL DHs this weekend combined to bat .193 (17 for 88) with two homers and six RBI in 23 games.

That's not even the worst of it. Interleague play bastardizes the schedule. The Brewers go 3 for 3 this summer in playing AL East beasts Boston, Tampa Bay and the Yankees. In the meantime, NL Central-rival St. Louis gets to skip the Red Sox and Yankees in favor of the Blue Jays and Orioles.

The Cardinals play only six of 15 interleague games against clubs with winning records entering the weekend. Yet in another NL Central precinct, Cincinnati faces AL teams with winning records in nine more games than the Cards. Another way the math doesn't work: St. Louis plays 15 interleague games, the Reds play 18.

Staying with the AL East vs. NL Central, the Red Sox aren't scheduled to face the Reds or Cardinals. The Yankees don't face the Pirates or Astros. Advantage, Red Sox. AL West? Texas gets six games against lowly Houston. Oakland gets six against the world champion Giants.

"It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it's run its course," Leyland said. Which is highly entertaining, because he's one of the managers on commissioner Bud Selig's special committee for on-field issues. Cold soup for Leyland at the next meeting.

Part of the beauty of the 162-game schedule in the old days was, start to finish, everyone had to run the same obstacle course. With an unbalanced schedule and interleague play, each club runs an individual course stocked with advantages for some and disadvantages for others.

The issues aren't only long-haul fairness. One is short-term fairness, too -- which is Mattingly's beef. The Dodgers, he said, simply are not built to go into an AL park and play Mash Ball.

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They're not alone: Anybody who watched the Reds use Jonny Gomes or the Mets with Fernando Martinez at DH over the weekend -- it was like placing a kitten in the path of a tank.

As Leyland said, "At some point, we have to get baseball back to the same set of rules. I don't know why more people don't talk about it. No other sport plays different rules."

Interleague play was designed to goose attendance. Within that, it mostly was rigged to give us Mets-Yankees, White Sox-Cubs, Giants-A's and Dodgers-Angels. But part of that result is the Mariners and Padres -- "natural rivals" only because they're each orphaned in NL vs. AL -- playing annually since 1997.

"I don't know that it's interesting anymore," Maddon said.

In all but very few cases, it isn't.

2. Change we can believe in: Because baseball points to an attendance boom during interleague play -- partly because those Yankees-Mets and Sox-Cubs games pack the joints, partly because the weekends provide a built-in bump -- it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

But it's time for radical change:

 The number of interleague games should be drastically reduced, especially if another playoff team is added in each league in 2012. Then it will be even more difficult to camouflage the scheduling inequities. If the Yankees and Mets played one weekend per season, rather than six games total, that's enough.

 Until baseball's great minds inevitably Mapquest a way to take Leyland's suggestion and enforce the same rules, why not use the DH in NL parks and have pitchers hit in AL parks? At the very least, it would give home fans the chance to watch the style of baseball played in the "other" league, the one they don't see all the time.

3. Indians take Ohio: Asdrubal Cabrera's breakout season continues during a sweep of Cincinnati. With Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore and rookie pitcher Alex White on the DL and the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays and Rangers up next, it's crunch time in Cleveland.

4. Cubs vs. Red Sox: Those throwback 1918 uniforms rendered Saturday night's Cubs-Red Sox nearly unwatchable. There's a reason why the life expectancy for men no longer is 53 (as it was in 1918) ... and why nobody wears uniforms that ugly anymore.

5. Marlins disable Josh Johnson: Shoulder inflammation = Marlins crisis.

6. Bad juju for Braves: Jason Heyward goes on the disabled list with a sore shoulder, and Tim Hudson traveled home to have a stiff back examined. Not that things are dicey in Atlanta, but Coca-Cola is complaining of a hacking cough.

7. Nationals unload on Orioles: The 17 runs they scored Friday is their highest total in a game since leaving Montreal. Boots Day sends his regards.

8. Strikeouts 'R Us: Mariners Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez (Padres) and the Rays' James Shields (Marlins) each struck out 13 Sunday as easily as in backyard Wiffle Ball.

9. Los Angeles police move into action: They arrested one of the two men suspected in the beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow, and let's just hope they got the right cretin.

10. Gary Carter announces he has brain tumors: And hopefully, his next announcement will be that they're benign and doctors have safely removed them. What a tough, tough time for Hall of Famers, with Sparky Anderson, Robin Roberts, Bob Feller, Duke Snider and Harmon Killebrew all having passed away within the last year.


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