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MLB considering changes for Interleague Play

Apr 30, 2012, 8:00 PM EDT

Barrett Pierzynski Getty Getty Images

We already know that when the Astros make the switch to the American League next season, it will create a more balanced schedule which will necessitate Interleague Play on a daily basis. But it sounds like more changes could be on the way.

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that MLB is working on a “scheduling reconfiguration” for 2013 and beyond which will likely eliminate “natural rivals” playing home-and-home, six-game series annually.

While the current “natural rival” concept is good for ratings and boosts attendance in some places — for instance, the Mets’ home series against the Yankees this year figure to be some of their only sellouts — I’m guessing these proposed changes won’t disappoint many fans.

Whatever novelty interesting matchups like the Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox and Athletics-Giants once had is essentially gone and we’re still forced to sit through awkward rivalries like the Padres-Mariners. This will put a stop to that, thankfully. There’s also the question of whether it’s fair for a team like the Mets to play the Yankees six times annually when some of the other teams in their division don’t play them at all.

Of course, that’s just one example of the flawed nature of the “natural rival” concept and other fans probably have similar complaints depending upon who they root for. Heck, complaints about the new format are inevitable, too. But this is a change I can live with.

  1. jimbo1949 - Apr 30, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    “There’s also the question of whether it’s fair for a team like the Mets to play the Yankees six times annually when some of the other teams in their division don’t play them at all.”
    .
    Spoken like a true Met fan.

    • D.J. Short - Apr 30, 2012 at 8:29 PM

      Haha. You bet.

  2. dondada10 - Apr 30, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    “Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that MLB is working on a “scheduling reconfiguration” for 2013 and beyond which will likely eliminate “natural rivals” playing home-and-home, six-game series annually.”

    So is the difference going to be that the teams only play each other once a year as opposed to twice?

    Interleague, as much as we all got tired of it, seems like it’s going to be even more prevalent now that each league is going to have 15 teams. I think one of the reconfigurations is that there won’t be designated “interleague weeks” but rather 1 interleauge series at all times.

    The Mets are still going to play the Yankees. The Cubs will still play the White Sox. Just not as much.

  3. ditto65 - Apr 30, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    I hate interleague play. Hate. HATE.

  4. mplsjoe - Apr 30, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    Wait, moving the Astros to the AL will require interleague play every day? That sucks. The only thing special about interleague play is that it’s special. If it happens every day, then it’s just another game. Even forced games like Padres/Mariners are at least different and interesting because they’re rare. If they’re not rare, then they’re not interesting.

    Oh, and there’s nothing forced or fake about the Twins/Brewers rivalry. At least not for the fans.

    • D.J. Short - Apr 30, 2012 at 8:36 PM

      You’re right. I shouldn’t have equated those two. That was an oversight on my part.

  5. skerney - Apr 30, 2012 at 9:34 PM

    DJ, have you ever lived in New York, Chicago or the Bay Area? You call the matchups you cited a “novelty” that has worn off. I can’t speak for CHI or NY but I live in SF and the sting of ’89 will never go away and my A’s friends never let me forget it. I’m sure 2000 still hurts for Mets fans and Sox fans hold 05 over Northsiders heads. These seem to be vibrant rivalries and to say the novelty has worn off seems to be an out of touch statement by someone who has little idea what he is taking about.

    • D.J. Short - Apr 30, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      I’m a Mets fan, so I can obviously relate to what you are talking about, but I’m much more concerned with division rivals (or teams competing for the Wild Card) than the Yankees at this point. And we’re talking about a scaling back of natural rivals, so instead of six games, we’ll get three. That should be enough to satisfy those who enjoy it.

    • unconventionalidiot - Apr 30, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      As a Chicago resident and a Cubs fan I can tell you I’ve been tired of interleague play for a number of years. Yes, Sox fans rightfully claim superiority over their more recent WS win but that’s beside the point. These games are a distraction from the main purpose of either team which is trying to make the playoffs. When either team is in contention, which has happened a number of times since interleague play started, it’s a particularly unwelcome distraction. I’m a season ticket holder and haven’t attended an interleague game in over 5 years. I’m glad I’ll only have to deal with this half as much as I do now.

      • chadjones27 - May 1, 2012 at 8:26 AM

        I don’t think you’re going to see less interleague play, just less games against the same opponent.

  6. rooney24 - Apr 30, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    I like interleague play. I always found it odd that the professional league that played the most games didn’t play every other team. If the NBA (with roughly half as many games) can play every team twice, it certainly works that MLB teams could play one series against each team in the other league. It will allow fans the possibility of seeing every other team every other season. As a kid, I always hated that you only had a chance to see certain players on TV, not at the real game.

  7. bigleagues - Apr 30, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    Once they drop “MLB” in favor of “NBL” – National Baseball League – the homogenization and assimilation of major league professional baseball to look and feel like the other three major sports in format and feel will be complete.

    Why have anything that is original and unique to your sport, it just confuses people.

    Oh, but wait . . . a play clock can’t be far behind, right? I can see it now . . .

    Don Orsillo: Beckett toes the rubber and the pitch clock begins . . . . . Beckett starts his wind-up BING! . . . and Jeter is awarded Ball Four, all on Pitch Clock violations.

    Jerry: I’ll tell ya Don, personally I’m not a fan of the Pitch Clock, but it sure adds a dimension to the game.

    Orsillo: Yeah, it sure does. I wonder Wally (the stuffed green monster perched in their booth) thinks about it. Wally?

    Wally: -speechless- (as always)

    Jerry & Don giggle at their edgy & pointed anti-Pitch Clock commentary never to revisit the topic ‘seriously’ again.

    • crotchjenkins - May 1, 2012 at 7:06 AM

      Rule 8.04
      When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
      The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

      • natstowngreg - May 1, 2012 at 9:01 AM

        It’s understandable that fans don’t know about the time limit, since it isn’t enforced. A pitch clock could be interesting, if MLB were really interested in speeding up the game. In addition, how about putting a limit on how often batters can call time?

        Of course, MLB isn’t really interested in speeding up the game. Not when 5-hour Yankees-Red Sox games and World Series games lasting past Midnight draw the highest ratings.

      • 18thstreet - May 1, 2012 at 9:23 AM

        Ban the mound conference.

      • chumthumper - May 1, 2012 at 9:38 AM

        IMHO the phrase that nullifies this rule is “the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher”. A pitch clock obviously means zip because it’s never called. The batter can step out of the box, adjust his gloves, scratch himself, check the signs…again, go through all kinds of superstitious stuff and it starts all over again.

      • davidpom50 - May 1, 2012 at 11:54 AM

        chum’s right, but it seems that can be easily fixed by disallowing the batter to step out of the box between pitches.

      • sportsdrenched.com - May 1, 2012 at 12:26 PM

        In the summer league National Baseball Congress tournament there is a 20 second pitch clock. If the batter is scratching his fleas & adjusting his jock he gets a strike. If the pitcher is licking the ball & playing with his whiskers he gets a ball.

        Not sure how I’d like it on the MLB level. But when there are 6 baseball games on the same diamond in one day it keeps things moving along and I liek it.

      • bigleagues - May 1, 2012 at 6:13 PM

        Thank you for the rulebook passage that I pretty much know front to back.

        Apparently, sarcasm truly is lost on the HBT crowd. Apparently points that aren’t literally stated – zoom completely over and behind the head of many HBT readers.

        The fictitious (but oh so truthy) exchange I penned above was NOT a commentary on whether or not the 12-second rule should be enforced. It was a lampooning of the non-controversial, unquestioning goofballs that populate MLB broadcast booths, and how they become propagandists for the agenda that the Fraud Commissioner has set for MLB since being anointed as Chief Executive Officer of MLB (there is no real Commissioner anymore).

        While Selig, the owner’s mouthpiece (not the impartial reverent judicial types that the Commissioner’s Office is supposed to be led by), certainly has done some good, he has made changes to the game that can likely never be reversed, and which ruined what was unique about baseball versus other major sports. Inter-league and the completely indefensible and adolescent decision to award home field in the World Series to the winner of the ASG . . . being first and foremost on my list.

        And when these monumental changes occur . . . those who interface with the public the most . . . the guys in the booth (Local as well as National) have virtually no leverage to express their own thoughts and feelings without fear of reprimand from their employers . . . the franchises that make up MLB and pay Selig to be their chief propagandist.

        The average fan is then fed, through a familiar affable face, a steady line of MLB corporate propaganda. And the average fan, just trying to relax and enjoy a game, eventually just accepts the change without protest.

        So, not to be ungrateful, but save your rulebook citations for someone who needs the remedial help. I do not.

        But since you chose to make an issue of the 12-second rule . . . let’s just air that out for a moment, shall we? It’s not enforced by umpires because the rule is UNREALISTIC. Watch any game tonight, time the pitchers on both sides, then switch to another game and do the same. VERY VERY FEW come anywhere close to delivering the next pitch within 12 seconds of receiving the ball.

        But some idiot on MLB Network gets a hair up his ass and begins berating Beckett (who I strongly dislike as a person, btw, but will defend here) because he will sometimes take 22 second, or 33 seconds or 27 seconds between pitches. And to that Beckett has the correct answer:

        “What is pitching? Pitching is upsetting the timing of hitting. What is hitting? Hitting is timing the pitcher,” Beckett said. “So for me, instead of standing on the rubber already and waiting for their whole walk-up song, [expletive] it. I can play the waiting game. I’m going to be out there for 110 pitches anyway.”

        If you truly understand the game, you completely get and respect that pitching philosophy . . . if you are some hardball fanboy, you’ll be irritated waiting for the next pitch.

      • bigleagues - May 1, 2012 at 6:20 PM

        And here I was attempting to be absurd by asserting a 12-second pitch clock would be right in line with Selig’s principle of deconstructing what once made MLB great.

        Apparently, there is nothing to absurd for MLB’s fanboy culture.

        Excuse me, I have to get back to penning my Change.org petition to Selig demanding each team have a Dugout Dance Team by Spring Training 2013.

  8. phillyfanmatt - Apr 30, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    Unless I am wrong I am thinking that the mets will still play a home and home series with the yankees. But they will also play a home and home every year with every other team in the American league just like every other team in the national league. Just like the mets play basically a home and home with the teams from every division in the NL but the east. Am I wrong in my thinking?

    • xavier46 - May 1, 2012 at 2:31 AM

      Yes.

      “they will also play a home and home every year with every other team in the American league just like every other team in the national league. Just like the mets play basically a home and home with the teams from every division in the NL but the east.”

      A home & home with every team from the opposite league is 90 games. (6 games * 15 teams).
      Toss in the 14 home and home with the teams in your own league (6 games * 14 teams) and it is an additional 84 games. Quick total of 174 games. Then I’m assuming that for a division to be relevant you’d want to play 12-18 games against each division foe, assuming the 6 that are already accounted for with each opponent, you need to play 6-12 more against each opponent (6 * 4 teams = 24, 12*4 teams = 48) take the middle of the road at 36. 174+36=210. Toss in the postseason, a max of 1+5+7+7=20 more games. Looking at 230 games a year. While I did this mainly to show how incredibly wrong you are, i’ll just leave it at 230 games a year. Gives about 2 weeks between the conclusion of the WS and when pitchers and catchers report. For the sake of all of us, I hope your thinking is wrong.

  9. virusgvr - Apr 30, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    I totally agree that they should revive these rules for the entire season. It would be better for ticket sales. People are just not interested in watching Indians vs Royals 17 damn times a year. Especially when its on a weekday at 1:05pm game time.

    America is always on the move. I remember about 3 season ago the Cubs visited the Rays. I know there has to be more that just a few Cub fans in Tampa. I am also willing to bet that these fans would like to see their team more than once every 50 years. Case in point, that same season New York Yankees visited the Pirates… That the was the first time the Yankees visited the pirates since the 60’s.

    • The Baseball Idiot - May 1, 2012 at 3:00 AM

      Maybe the Pirates should get into the World Series.

      • bravojawja - May 1, 2012 at 9:47 AM

        So they can play the Rangers?

  10. cogitobaseballergosum - May 1, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    If they have to expand inter-league play, and if they’re going to leave it at 162 games, I hope it will look something like this:

    In-division games: 14 games x 4 teams = 56
    Non-division games: 6 games x 10 teams = 60
    Interleague non-natural rival games: 3 games x 14 teams = 42
    Interleague natural rival games: 4 games x 1 team = 4

    You’d have 3 and 4 game home-and-home series with each of your division rivals, and a 3 game home-and-home series with each non-division team. You’d only play your natural rival 1 extra game, and except for that 1 game, it would be balanced within the division. The 4 games against your natural rival could be split into 2 home-and-home sets, or 1 4-game set with home team alternating each year.

  11. phillyfanmatt - May 1, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    I unfortunately did not do the math. But I do agree now that it was an ill-conceived concept. The plan that was posted by another makes much more sense.

  12. ajcardsfan - May 1, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Don’t you be taking away my Cards vs Royals games, especially now that I’m not a broke college student and can actually get decent seats!

  13. pw38 - May 1, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    So maybe I’m not seeing something here but why would the 15 team leagues necessitate interleague every day? If that’s the best they can come up with I’d rather them not play interleague at all. I like the seperation of the leagues and the mystery surrounding how the two teams will play each other with little to no experience between them. It’s part of what I think makes baseball unique. Having them play every day just makes it like any other sport. I know my view point apparently is in the minority though and there’s no chance interleague will go away so all I can do is hope it’s implemented in a tasteful fashion.

    • freealonzo - May 1, 2012 at 11:04 AM

      Dude really? Do I really have to point out that 15 teams in a league is an odd number meaning that one team in each league isn’t playing? C’mon!

      • pw38 - May 1, 2012 at 4:25 PM

        I’m not stupid I understand the idea behind an odd number of teams necessitating interleage I guess I just don’t like interleague play. C’mon!

  14. koufaxmitzvah - May 1, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    Here’s hoping that in a few years we get a new commissioner who will return the Astros to the National League and get rid of interleague play. I would much rather see my Dodgers play other National League teams 12 times a year rather than 6, and would gladly give up my “natural” rivalry against the Angels and the 3 games against whatever AL division team’s we happen to be playing that season to see it happen.

  15. 1wdmnt - May 1, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    The one change in inter league play that is a MUST is that the DH rule must be exist for all teams at all times. As far as I know it’s the only AL – NL rule that still exists. With more interleague games, the risk of injury to all pitchers is tremendous.

  16. avietar - May 1, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Interleague play is a joke, a stupid gimmick designed by the owners to wring extra revenue from the schedule, even if it’s at the cost of destroying natural rivalries or, as in the case of Mets-Yankees, burdening one team or the other with an opponent that might keep it from winning a division or pennant.

    It shocks me that Mets owner Fred Wilpon doesn’t put his foot down and tell the Commissioner’s office that enough is enough: either the other teams in the NL East play the Yankees as often as the Mets do, or the Mets will not play the Yankees at all, extra revenue be damned.

    • mrwillie - May 1, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      I haven’t looked at the rest of the NL East schedule, but I do know that the Braves have a a home and away with the Yanks.Same 6 games as the Mets.

  17. wizzrdofaz - May 1, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    I hope they get their collective minds together and realize, that there is in no way a “natural” relationship between Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers. That’s how it’s been since they started inter league play. Perhaps the Angels, or maybe the Oakland As, but Detroit, come on.

  18. leftywildcat - May 1, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    NL East team, for example, plays each of 4 division rivals 13 times (odd game home one year, away next), = 52 games.

    Team plays each of 10 other NL teams 7 times, = 70 games.

    Team plays each of 5 AL East teams 4 times (2 home, 2 away) = 20 games.

    Team plays each of 10 other AL teams 2 times (AL Central home one year, away next, AL West the opposite) = 20 games.

    Total 162. No local “natural” rivalries, and 40 inter-league games per team allows for constant inter-league play.

    • jkredondo - May 1, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      I like your tossing ODD qtys in there. MLB should do exactly that. General imbalance is going to be FULLY unavoidable anyway, So why bother with an even number (once it’s more than 6 games)? Make it so the larger season series will always have a “winner”?

      But the rest of your plan is just one more version of “ooops, here’s another convoluted way to get us out of this mess we created, with 15 teams in each league”.

      (and altho this might be inevitable no matter what….) you’ve set it up so the “2-game series” will now be the norm, where currently those are pretty much only “schedule-fillers” that almost always cause teams difficulties. That may be fine for your ‘east coast shuttling’, but methinx the AL & NL West teams will quickly get tired of constant 4 hour red-eye flights on gameday.

      You’d also need to address “tie-breakers”? Your schedule is now too tight. Rainouts, rain delays and re-schedules will be bad enough. You CAN’T have extra innings screwing things up too! Bud will have to declare the new “10-inning rule”. Teams still tied after that do a 10 minute “home run derby”, til we have a winner. LOL.

  19. jkredondo - May 1, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    1. is it a sad statement on America’s educational system? Or is it just proof that it’s hopeless, we’re doomed? How long do we have to be amazed that HUGE numbers of baseball fans STILL have not grasped that 15 teams in each league AUTOMATICALLY means inter-league games MUST take place every day, throughout the season? Do these people really think Bud Selig suddenly went “OOPS” when he finally realized it THIS WEEK??

    2. (same first two questions, then)….the NBA does it? NFL/NHL does it? really? They play 3 and 4 game series before they leave each town? Or are you saying you want your baseball series to be one and done (or maybe 2 games)? really?

    3. As for the NFL’s sorta-dynamic “cross town rivalries”, that currently works extremely well because those games are NOT force-fit into the schedule every year. They are “occasional scheduling wonderments” that then get (properly?) hyped as something special. I don’t think anybody would have a problem if baseball “fell” into that as well. Yankees & Mets HAPPEN to meet every 3 years or so? works for me!

  20. riverafan - May 1, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    I feel like, because of the wild cards, the goal should be each team in each league should play a very similar schedule. My schedule would look like this.
    Each team in a division plays 10 games against other division teams.
    Each team plays each opponent in the rest of their league 9 times. Each team plays every team from other league 2 times a season.
    Natural rivals play each other an additional 2 games.

    This would give division teams a reasonable look at each other, would allow every team to see every other team for a quick series, thereby allowing fans to see favorite opponents every other year for a 2 game series, and allow for natural rivals to see each other at home for 2 games each year.

  21. dexterismyhero - May 1, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Love that pic of AJ getting popped.

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