InterLeague is Good For the Fan’s Soul Joe

It is sometimes pretty rare for me to not go totally along with something Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon says. Usually I am not above drinking the team’s Kool Aid at times, particularly when it comes to some of their personnel moves.

But I have to take exception with one of Maddon’s recent vocal oratories. I am all for the InterLeague format. Been on their bandwagon since the First Pitch, and will be an adamant supporter of it to its last swing. Even though I can side with some of Maddon’s concerns, as a fan, InterLeague gives me a chance to see players and teams I would have to travel great distances to see in-person.

Sure it plays a bit of havoc on the Ray’s already crowded 162-game schedule, but it has advantages that sometimes miss the mindset of the 30 dugout leaders of Major League Baseball. We all know without question Maddon’s admiration and affection for a possible future balanced schedule. But it might not happen in MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s tenure.

Where else can a Manager have a chance to play devil’s advocate with no pressure from the playoffs than at this juncture in mid-May and June. Suddenly they can insert, delete or even tinker without the worry of a 3, 5 or 7-game series hinging on their line-up card. Plus it gives the fans and added impact via opinions, blogs and even Twitter to voice their own preferences towards DH or non-DH starters in games.

The main appeal of InterLeague to me is still the match-ups that constantly revolve to give our American League team a chance to see budding superstars, aging stars and some part-time focus on things outside our AL-realm of thinking. The National League plays a different game at times than the power conscious AL.

For that reason alone it brings back into play the skill set and imagination of all 30 MLB Managers, their rosters potential, and also bring to light some of the obvious flaws we see even in a championship squad. The NL frame of mind is firmly planted into moving runners into scoring position and systematically ( hopefully) bringing the home in before the third out.

AL seems to play more wing and a prayer long ball with the potential of each pitch possibly bringing a victory. Put the two systems together and you get a massive human Chess match that can be dominated in a nano second by the more versatile club. But that is not the InterLeague’s biggest drawing point to me.

I remember seeing Barry Bonds in the Trop a few years ago when the San Francisco Giants were not “World beaters”. It brought a figure who was larger to life into the cool confines of the Trop when if not for InterLeague, Rays fans would have had to travel to the city by the bay, or go to an Arizona Spring game to see Bonds.

Take this season’s match-ups of the 2010 surprising Cincinnati Reds and their budding superstar 1B Joey Votto and the return of former Rays fav Jonny Gomes since his exit from the Rays Republic. This match-up pushed together two equally matched teams on the hill with offenses that strive to score and produce at will at times. But in the Rays disadvantage is this is a home series where the team has been…well dreadful.

Or maybe you have the dates that the St. Louise Cardinals, who trained in these parts for over 25 years come back to the Trop and bring former Rays RP Trever Miller and some guy named Pujols. Tell me Sir Albert will not bring the Rays fans in droves to see a star that is still shining bright and hope to see a long ball deposited into the seats of the Trop. InterLeague makes these kind of meeting possibly outside the realm of the World Series. But maybe it was the quote in an article by the St. Petersburg Times where Maddon voiced his displeasure for this wild yearly adventure that evoked the most emotion from me.

Maddon was quoted in that article stating: ” I Think in the beginning it was an idea that fans kind of got into and it was kind of interesting. I don’t know that it’s interesting any more.”

Sorry to give you the news Joe, but it is relevant to us in the Rays Republic. We love seeing guys like Pujols, Votto and old friends like Gomes and Miller strut into the Trop and play creative baseball with our Rays. The most interesting thing here is that I finally found something to disagree with you on. That doesn’t happen with regularity, just like the InterLeague season.

 

(Sitting at the Rays Watch Party at Courtside Grille as I submit this blog……Where are you?)

10 Comments

I agree with you Rays Renegade. I look forward to Interleague every year because I get to see unusual pitching match-ups, players I don’t normally get to watch outside of the highlight reels and my team playing in storied NL ballparks. If MLB decides to switch up how they schedule Interleague or shortened it a little bit I wouldn’t object, but I definitely enjoy it and would like it to stay.
–Kristen

Kristen,
Your team, the Angels are a great example of getting to see budding and fading superstars this weekend. Angels fans can see the up and coming duo of Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward and well as the possible last season for Chipper Jones.
It also gives the Angels fans a glimpse on just how good this team can be, and that they can beat a high caliber team, even from the NL East.
And there is more InterLeague to come…..

I think I’m just about done with interleague play. A matchups a season is alright, but some of these matchups are just uninteresting.

Michael,
I agree some match-ups or series do have less flair. I mean the Rays played the Astros at home a few years ago, but it can not always be wine and roses in these match-ups.
Sure I would love a series between the Giants and Rays , or possibly the Rockies at home this time….But that is not going to happen in 2011.
Sure some of the series stale in comparision to others, but so do some of the regular season series with teams from large distances away that do not have traveling fans come to town.
Guess it could be worse…..

I’m with Joe on this one. Way out of hand now. The newness has worn off. I wanna refund!
–Jeff

You do make a lot of really good points about Interleague. I guess I would just like it better if the Padres had a star player that people would want to come out to see. I am excited that the Padres get to face the Red Sox in Fenway this season. That’s going to be a fun series, with us getting to see Adrian Gonzalez in his new digs. I’m sure we’ll get creamed, but I love the Red Sox and all their players, so I guess it will be okay.
http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
Guess I will not see you down in Sunny FLA when the Cardinals hit town for InterLeague.
To me it is still baseball, so it is never boring. Plus since the Cards series is in the Trop….DH is in the house.
That should/could make it a bit more of the shooting gallery than a shooting ducks in the pond.

Kaybee,
A-Gonz has been producing, so he has not heard the “Boo-birds” Carl Crawford has in his ears recently.
It was a great pick-up for the Red Sox, and could be the player that pushes them closer towards a playoff spot.
Guess we shall see soon enough if there will be bombs bursting in air or a cool breeze off of A-Gonz’s bat.

I stated my opinion of Interleague on my blog and have to say I agree. This past weekend’s ‘ubbies (not a misprint if you saw those throwback uniforms) Sox set was great and not just cause we took 2 of 3. Once you got past the historical spotlight of the 1918 stuff, you had real baseball. Now quite obviously, since the Cubs visited for the first time since 1918 this growing and heated rivalry would have been the lore of MLB videogamers and not the product of Interleague play.

Actually, I was at the first ESPN Sunday Night Interleague game which was Sox/Braves from Fenway.

Rays fans get the Interstate rivalry with the Marlins, which for two young teams in untraditional markets with largely (no offense, but let’s be honest) bandwagon fanbases, it can be a good thing. But there’s Show Me State battles, the massive war for California, rivalries for PA, NY and the Nation’s Capitol as well as a dozen other rivalries based on transplanted teams, past WS adversaries and so on.

Since MLB forced Interleague upon us and told us to deal with it… we did. Sure, it took a bit, but we’ve grown comfortable with it. Maybe Joe Maddon and many in baseball do indeed need to remember what is in fact good for the fans and not just their team’s schedule.

http://cordaro9418.mlblogs.com/

Cordaro,
Not going to get into the “bandwagon” statement, but most Boston fans know our respected ” heat” between Beantown and the “Lightning Capital of the World” stems to the ice right now.
I do think Maddon and a few others see InterLeague from the field prospective and not the overall picutre at times. But that is expected since his place is on the dugout rail. Still, for a teams like the Rays and Marlins who have been around less than 20 years, match-ups like this get them in tune with the glory and aspect of the league as a whole…not just AL or regional contests.

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