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The Week Ahead: Like it or not, Interleague play is back

May 16, 2010, 11:57 PM EDT

Remember the novelty of Interleague play when it first came into existence back in 1997?

Fans in Atlanta could see the New York Yankees in person. NL greats like Barry Bonds and John Smoltz would make appearances in AL cities. And places with multiple teams playing in separate leagues – like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area – had the rare chance to see their local rivals square off on the diamond.

Of course most of that excitement has worn off by now. You don’t even need the MLB Network or a satellite dish to watch the Yankees just about every week. A simple television setup that includes ESPN, TBS and FOX will do just fine. And if you have more exotic tastes – Pirates anyone? – you can watch almost any game on the Internet.

But even if Interleague baseball has sort of worn out its usefulness, it, like Spencer Pratt, is not going away anytime soon.

So prepare yourself for the return of Interleague play for a 13th straight season beginning with a host of three-game series this weekend. And unlike The Hills you’ll actually get some matchups worth watching, including Yankees-Mets, Red Sox-Phillies, Angels-Cardinals, Giants-A’s and Tigers-Dodgers.

Those are some pretty good showdowns, and it’s all just a teaser for a much more extensive run of Interleague games covering the bulk of June. Sure, some of the excitement has worn off. And perhaps it takes away a little bit of novelty from the All-Star game and World Series. But it will still be a treat.

The shine may be off the apple, but it still tastes pretty good.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH (non-interleague)

Red Sox at Yankees, May 17-18: Wait didn’t these guys just play? Lighten up Francis, that was more than a week ago. Besides, this is only a two-game series, and the matchup ESPN loves the most (which means YOU WILL LOVE, IT TOO!) will only happen 10 more times this season. This is barring, of course, some sort of playoff matchup.

Giants at Padres, May 17-18: The Giants enter the week on a three-game winning streak to pull within 1/2-game of the NL West-leading Padres. (Yes, you read that right). If you like pitching, defense and speed (except for Bengie Molina) this series is for you.

Rays at Yankees, May 19-20: The two best teams in baseball – at least if you go by overall record and things like this — square off in the Bronx. Too bad it’s only a two-game series.

Twins at Red Sox, May 19-20: A tasty treat between one team that used to be great and another that could be on its way to greatness. I’ll let you figure out which is which. And I pity any left-handed hitters in Thursday’s Francisco Liriano-Jon Lester matchup.

Rockies at Astros, May 19-20: OK so this isn’t a great matchup by any means, but in the same way that every team is represented in the All-Star game, I aim to mention every team in this space at least once this season. So congratulations, Astros, this is your day! At least we have a Roy Oswalt-Ubaldo Jimenez matchup to look forward to on Thursday.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Red Sox at Yankees (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Rays at Yankees (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cubs at Rangers (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Tigers at Dodgers (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Mets (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Red Sox at Phillies (FOX)
 Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Red Sox at Phillies (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Yankees at Mets (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

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  1. mike in MN - May 17, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Or, I can, you know, watch NL teams live, and in person. I can see players and teams IN PERSON I couldn’t otherwise see. I can’t think of one reason why not to have interleague play, other than tradition. I can’t think of one way it decreases the entertainment factor (but plenty of ways it increases it). Other than sticking to the way it used to be out of stubbornness, I’m not sure why anyone is opposed to it.

  2. Chipmaker - May 17, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    Fourteenth season of interleague play — which means that postseason berths are in part determined by teams with no stake in the outcome.
    captcha: eleven interference

  3. Utley's hair - May 17, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    “…which means that postseason berths are in part determined by teams with no stake in the outcome.”
    With that comment, are you advocating a 32-team playoff system? Or some other sort of predetermined playoff particiption? If that’s the case, why play the regular season?

  4. funi - May 17, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    8 game son tv and only 2 not involving either the Stankees or RedSucks? They are not even in 1st place!

  5. minnesconsin_ad - May 17, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    “And I pity any left-handed hitters in Thursday’s Francisco Liriano-Jon Lester matchup.”
    .365 and .378 – Morneau’s and Mauer’s averages against lefties this year. I’m not too worried about facing Lester. If memory serves, Span, Mauer, Kubel each hit well and knocked Lester out after 5 innings down 4-1.

  6. Danni - May 17, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    I too love interleague play– I am looking forward to attending a pair of interleague games this season– I am going to this Friday’s Phillies-Red Sox game, and am looking into attending Phillies-Blue Jays (I am looking forward to seeing a DH live). I love the fact that interleague games give me a chance to see teams like the Red Sox play my team head to head– something that all of the ESPN in the world would not give me without interleague play. As to the other poster who mentioned that it causes playoff seeding to be determined in part due to games played against teams with no stake in it– how is this different from any of the other major sports where games against the other division or conference are a part of the standings– I hope that they keep interleague play– the only way that I would improve it is by trying to do some sort of cycling process that would insure that every so many years a team would host (and by the same token play at) every team in the opposing league.

  7. Cochituate - May 17, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    If interleague games actually meant anything, then the stats of players that are traded from one league to the other during a season would carry over, but they don’t, so the gods of baseball understand how they’re like a weird spring training in the middle of the season. I am a Boston fan, living in Minnesota for decades now, and thanks to the combo of the unbalanced schedule (18 games which each team in the division) and interleague play, the Red Sox only come to town once a year. Thanks to the BoSox opening the new stadium this year, I’ll not be able to see my home town team until next season.
    Put me in charge of baseball instead of the dweeb who is now, and I’ll fix it, once and for all.

  8. Cochituate - May 17, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    Mike, you don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Interleague play? I live right here in St. Paul Minnesota, and I HATE interleague play. I don’t give a rip about national league teams until it comes to World Series time, and we get to beat them again.
    By the way, put the Brewers back in the American League, so we have 15 teams in each league, and somebody always has the day off. The only time they won a pennant was in the American League.

  9. JV - May 23, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    Don’t care what the detractors say, I LOVE interleague baseball AND damn glad it’s still around. Only baseball has old geazers who still want to live in the 19th century, every other sport all teams play each other.

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