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Interleague play is the term used to describe regular season Major League Baseball games played between teams in different leagues, introduced in 1997. Before the 1997 season, teams in the American League and National League did not meet during the regular season. AL/NL matchups only occurred during spring training, the All-Star Game, other exhibition games such as the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, New York, and the World Series. Unlike modern interleague play, none of these contests, except for the World Series, counted toward official team or league records.

Contents

History

Early discussions

Interleague or interconference matchups have long been the norm in other professional sports leagues such as the NFL. Regular season interleague play was discussed for baseball's major leagues as early as the 1930s. In December 1956, Major League owners considered a proposal by Cleveland general manager and minority-owner Hank Greenberg to implement limited interleague play beginning in 1958. Under Greenberg's proposal, each team would continue to play 154-games in the season, 126 of which would be within the league, and 28 against the eight clubs. The interleague games would all be played during a period immediately following the All-Star Game. Notably, under Greenberg's proposal, all results would count in regular season game standings and league statistics.[1] While this proposal was not adopted, the current system shares many elements. Bill Veeck predicted in 1963 that Major League Baseball would someday have Interleague play.[2] The concept did not take hold until the 1990s (at least in part as an effort to renew the public's interest in MLB following the 1994 players' strike).

First games

The first interleague game took place on June 12, 1997, as the Texas Rangers hosted the San Francisco Giants at The Ballpark in Arlington. There were four interleague games on the schedule that night, but the other three were played on the West Coast, so the Giants–Rangers matchup started a few hours earlier than the others. Texas' Darren Oliver threw the game's first pitch and San Francisco outfielder Glenallen Hill was the first designated hitter used in a regular-season game by a National League team. San Francisco's Stan Javier hit the first home run in interleague play, and the Giants won the game, 4-3.

From 1998 to 2001, teams from the American League West played teams from the National League West, etc., typically scheduled to alternate between home and away in consecutive years. However, in 2002, the league began alternating which divisions played which divisions, and thus in 2002 the American League East played the National League West, the American League Central played the National League East, and the American League West played the National League Central. Matchups which had been of particular interest prior to this format — mainly geographic rivals — were preserved. This is expected to be the continuing format of the interleague schedule. Corresponding divisions however, were skipped once when this rotation began, but were put back in the rotation in 2006.

Since 2002, all interleague games have been played prior to the All-Star Game. Most games are played in June, though May games have been scheduled since 2005.

The designated hitter (DH) rule is applied in the same manner as in the World Series and the All-Star Game. In an American League ballpark, both teams have the option to use a DH. In a National League ballpark, both teams' pitchers must bat. Some baseball observers feel it might be fairer to reverse this (in other words, always follow the DH rule of the visiting team instead of the home team), thereby offsetting the home-field advantage.

Through 2009, the American League holds an all-time series advantage of 1,673-1,534 and has finished with the better record in interleague play for 6 straight seasons, dating back to 2004.[3] 2006 was the most lopsided season in interleague history, with American League teams posting a 154-98 record against their National League counterparts.[3] The team with the best all-time record in interleague play is the New York Yankees of the AL at 133-95 (.583).[3]

In 2007, two teams—the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles played 6 games with more than one interleague opponent. The former playing both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim while the latter played both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals.

As of 2009, the Civil Rights Game is a regular season interleague game; the first such match-up was between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds in Great American Ballpark on June 20, 2009.

Records

Wins by league

Year Best Record American League National League
1997 National 97 117
1998 American 114 110
1999 National 116 135
2000 American 136 115
2001 American 132 120
2002 National 123 129
2003 National 115 137
2004 American 126 125
2005 American 136 116
2006 American 154 98
2007 American 137 115
2008 American 149 103
2009 American 138 114
Overall American 1,674 1,534

Interleague statistics

The following is text of Major League Baseball's policy regarding the compilation of statistics as a result of Interleague Play:

"For the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, Interleague games are to be played during the regular season. Breaking tradition always brings about controversy and the matter of baseball records is no exception.

"It is the opinion of Major League Baseball that there is no justification for compiling a new volume of records based on Interleague Play. On the contrary, the sovereignty of each league's records will be retained, and if a player or a team breaks a record against an Interleague opponent it will be considered a record in that league. In cases where two teams -- as Interleague opponents -- break a league or Major League record, that record will be annotated with the phrase 'Interleague game.' Streaks by both teams and individual will continue (or be halted) when playing Interleague opponents in the same manner as if playing against an intraleague opponent. In essence, records will be defined by who made them rather than against whom they were made.

"The official statistics of both leagues will be kept separately as they have in the past. This means statistics for each team and their individual players will reflect their performance in games within the league and also in Interleague games without differentiation."[4]

Interleague-play leaders

A list of leaders in the following categories is available on the MLB.com website.[5]

  • Batting Average (min. 300 at-bats)
  • Hits
  • Home Runs
  • Runs Batted In
  • Wins (by pitcher)
  • ERA (min. 100 innings)
  • Saves
  • Year-by-year Stats

Geographical matchups

Several interleague matchups are especially anticipated because of the relative proximity of the teams involved. In the case of each of these "rivalry" matchups, the two teams play six games (home-and-home series of three games each) every year:

The two remaining West Coast teams (who share a spring training base in Peoria, Arizona) play annual home-and-home series as well:

The following eight teams are not paired up as of 2009:

Scheduling

Interleague play used to be scheduled in June and July. Later it was changed to occur only in June. In 2005, the format was changed again. Now, each team plays one series during the third weekend in May and plays the rest of their games in June, usually starting in the second week of June, only playing interleague opponents until the interleague schedule is complete for the year. In the American League, each team plays 18 games; in the National League, most teams will play 15 and some will play 18 games. In some years some NL teams may only play 12 interleague games. When this happens, most NL teams will play 18 interleague games, some will play 15 and a few will play 12. The reason for the difference is that during interleague play, all teams play interleague games at the same time, except for two NL teams that play each other. This is required because the NL has two more teams than the AL.

Arguments

Pros

Cons

  • There are many series that are not considered compelling; for example, series between currently poor-performing teams or teams with no historical or geographic connections.
  • American League pitchers generally don't like taking batting practice for the opportunity to bat in one or two games. These pitchers are also unaccustomed to running the bases, which can lead to injury and premature fatigue. (For example, Chien-Ming Wang suffered a season-ending lisfranc sprain on his right foot when running the bases during a Yankees-Astros game at Minute Maid Park on June 15, 2008.)
  • National League designated hitters (or the position players giving normal position players half a day off) are generally bench players, while American League designated hitters are generally starters.
  • With the two leagues not having the same number of teams, and with one division (the National League Central) containing six teams while another (the American League West) has only four (the other two divisions in both leagues consisting of five teams each), various irregularities in scheduling result. Most notably, teams no longer play identical opponents as their divisional rivals, and even where they do, they don't always play them an identical number of times. This can lead to "strength of schedule" disparities like those the NFL has to deal with on a yearly basis. For example, in any given season, one NL Central team might play every AL East team except the (strong) first place team, while another NL Central team plays all but the (weak) last place team. Another scheduling problem is that because the leagues are not equal in size, there always has to be one NL game on interleague days (interleague is done with block scheduling, so all the teams play interleague games on the same day, and all the interleague games are played in one part of the schedule (third weekend of May and much of June)
  • The "rivalry" series that consist of six games a year for some teams leads to further scheduling inequities. For example, the Chicago Cubs play the recently good Chicago White Sox six times a year, while their division rival St. Louis Cardinals play the recently poor Kansas City Royals six times a year.
  • The World Series and All-Star Game are robbed of some of their mystique that used to result from the two leagues playing completely exclusive schedules during the regular season: in the case of the World Series, the "best in the business" playing the "best in the business" for the only time that whole year.
  • Interleague games only take place during a brief period of time during the regular season, and not spread over the course of the season. If play was changed, the league could once again become balanced at 15 teams each, with five teams per division.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ Drebinger, John (1956-12-06). "Player limit, Interleague Games Top Issues on Majors' Agenda". New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10A11FF3B5A137A93CBA91789D95F428585F9. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  2. ^ Hurwitz, Hy (1963-05-04). "Veeck Predicts Big Time Will Adopt Interloop Play". The Sporting News. pp. 4. 
  3. ^ a b c "Interleague History: All-Time Club Records in Interleague Play". MLB.com. Major League Baseball. 2009-06-29. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/interleague/records.jsp. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  4. ^ Interleague History (MLB.com/News/Awards/History/Interleague/Home). MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  5. ^ Interleague History: Interleague Play Leaders (MLB.com/News/Awards/History/Interleague/All-Time Leaders). MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  6. ^ The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK - Rivalies add to interleague play







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