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I hate interleague play. It still seems like a gimmick to lure back disgruntled fans after the '94 strike to me. It's let's-pretend time, like imagining how your favorite superheroes would do if they fought (see Alien vs. Predator). The World Series is no longer as special because there's now always a possibility that the two finalists have already met in the regular season.
Here in Chicago, we're subjected to the Crosstown Classic, where fair-weather fans of the Cubs and Sox overpay to watch six games of an imaginary rivalry. When they played an exhibition game for bragging rights, if your team won you could gloat for a day or two, then forget about it. Now these games actually count, but instead of being matched against the A's or the Orioles, we get to face the Pirates and Diamondbacks, for reasons only marketers might find compelling.
Last year, the Sox' 15-3 mark against the National League gave us hope that they could make the playoffs. It turned out to be fool's gold and the fact that they couldn't hold their own against rivals in their own league bore that out.
Before the first interleague series this season, Don Mattingly, the manager of the Dodgers, complained about his team not being built to play against the American League. I can't fault him for this (American League teams tend to look silly in National League parks as well.) None of the three games have been pretty. The first should have been a routine victory for the Sox; instead, it turned into an ugly loss after Santos' first blown save of the season and Guillen's inexplicable decision to send his closer back out for the 10th. The second and third games were no-doubters. Don't get me wrong, I want my team to win every game they can, but these games left a sense that the deck was stacked, so the triumphs felt hollow.
It's been an odd year all over baseball. The Red Sox, Rays, and White Sox all had atrocious starts only to come most of the way back. The Cleveland Indians have the best record in baseball. The Sox are 4-1 against them so far and it's likely that come September they'll be in a dogfight with the Royals for the cellar of the Central. The Sox haven't lost a series in some two weeks. We're getting there. It's a shame that beating up on the Senior Circuit is what it takes to take our rightful place in the standings, but if that's the way it has to be, so be it. I'm with Mattingly though, in wishing it was the way it used to be: before interleague play, Sosa vs. McGwire, and various other side-show stunts "saved" baseball.
Juan Pierre by Dmitry Samarov (Enlarge)
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