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?)