Interleague play

Interleague play

Interleague play is the term used to describe regular season Major League Baseball games played between teams in different leagues, introduced in by|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. None of these contests, except for the World Series, counted toward official team or league records.


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. Bill Veeck predicted in 1963 that Major League Baseball would someday have Interleague play. [Hy Hurwitz, "Veeck Predicts Big Time Will Adopt Interloop Play", "The Sporting News" May 4, 1963, page 4] 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). Interleague play was not, and is still not, a universally endorsed innovation. However, it has added a new dimension to the major-league game, creating some matchups that had not been seen before, and some which held special significance for geographical and historical reasons.

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 Rangers-Giants matchup started a few hours earlier than the others. San Francisco outfielder Glenallen Hill was the first designated hitter used in a regular-season game by a National League team.

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 though corresponding divisions were integrated in this rotation in 2006.

Since 2002, all interleague games have been played prior to the All-Star Game, mostly in June.

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 2005, the National League had held an 1,104–1,095 advantage over the American League in interleague victories; this reversed itself in 2006, with AL teams posting a 154-98 record.

As of 2008, the American League currently holds an all-time series advantage of 1,387–1,317. The team with the best all-time record in interleague play is the New York Yankees of the AL, with a record of 113-79. [ [ Interleague | History ] ]

Since 2005, interleague games have been played in mid to late May, the earliest scheduled interleague games of the season.

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.

Interesting matchups

Several interleague matchups are highly anticipated (and well-attended), for a number of reasons:
**Chicago White Sox v. Chicago Cubs (Crosstown Classic, Windy City Series, or Red Line Series)
**Los Angeles Angels v. Los Angeles Dodgers (Freeway Series)
**Oakland Athletics v. San Francisco Giants (Bay Bridge Series)
**Tampa Bay Rays v. Florida Marlins (Citrus Series)
**Cleveland Indians v. Cincinnati Reds (Battle of Ohio)
**New York Yankees v. New York Mets (Subway Series)
**Kansas City Royals v. St. Louis Cardinals (I-70 Series or Show-Me Series)
**Texas Rangers v. Houston Astros (Lone Star Series)
**Baltimore Orioles v. Washington Nationals (Beltway Series)
***"Because the 2005 MLB schedule was already set when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, DC, the Orioles did not play the Nationals during the 2005 regular season. The two teams began their rivalry in 2006, and play home-and-home series each year during interleague play."
**Minnesota Twins v. Milwaukee Brewers
***"The Twins and the Brewers were formerly regional rivals in the American League from the Brewers' relocation from Seattle in 1969 as well as divisional rivals in the AL West (by|1970-by|1971) and the Central (by|1994-by|1997) prior to the Brewers' realignment into the NL Central for the by|1998 season. Both metro areas are connected by Interstate 94."

**Boston Red Sox v. Atlanta Braves
***"This matchup goes back to the time when both teams played in Boston and competed for fan allegiance against each other."
**Boston Red Sox v. New York Mets
***"This matchup is remembered mainly because of the 1986 World Series. In the 10th inning of Game 6 of this Series, the Red Sox came within one strike of their first World Series win since 1918 before losing the lead. Later in the inning, the winning run scored after a ground ball went between the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner. The Mets went on to win Game 7 and the Series."
**New York Yankees v. Los Angeles Dodgers (Crown Jewel Series)
***"This rivalry goes back to the days when both teams played in New York City. Between 1941 and 1956, the two teams played in seven World Series; Brooklyn won only once (1955). After the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the teams played four more times in the World Series, with each team winning twice (Dodgers in 1963 and 1981, Yankees in 1977 and 1978). The rivalry will perpetuate itself with the addition of 1996-2007 Yankees manager Joe Torre as manager for the Dodgers in 2008. The two have met a record eleven times in the World Series."
**Toronto Blue Jays v. Montreal Expos
***"From 1978 to 1986, the teams only met in the charity Pearson Cup in mid-season. They would only have met in relevant play had they both won their leagues' pennants. They played Pearson Cup games again in 2003, only as exhibition games. As the only Canadian teams, it made a natural rivalry (1997-2004) that ended with the Expos' move to Washington."
**St. Louis Cardinals v. Baltimore Orioles
***"Played in the 1944 World Series, the last to date to be played all in one ballpark (Sportsman's Park). The modern Baltimore Orioles were the St. Louis Browns of the American League from 1902 to 1953."
**Baltimore Orioles v. Pittsburgh Pirates
***"Met in both the 1971 and 1979 World Series, both of which went seven games with the Pirates prevailing in Baltimore."
**New York Yankees v. Pittsburgh Pirates
***"Met in both the 1927 and 1960 World Series, the former a Yankees' sweep and the latter a seven game classic that ended on a walk-off home run by Pirates' Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski."
**Detroit Tigers v. St. Louis Cardinals
***"Have met in three World Series (1934, 1968, and 2006) with the Cardinals winning twice."
**Boston Red Sox v. St. Louis Cardinals
***"Have met in three World Series (1946, 1967, and 2004) with the Cardinals winning twice."
**New York Yankees v. San Francisco Giants
***"Have met in seven World Series (1921, 1922, 1923, 1936, 1937, 1951, and 1962), with the Yankees winning the last five. Second most common World Series matchup after Dodgers–Yankees. The first six World Series meetings between the two took place when the Giants called New York home."
**Atlanta Braves v. New York Yankees
***"Have met in four World Series (1957, 1958, 1996, and 1999) with the Yankees winning the last three. The first two meetings took place while the Braves played in Milwaukee."
**Los Angeles Dodgers v. Oakland Athletics
***"Met in both the 1974 and 1988 World Series with the teams exchanging five game victories (Athletics in '74, Dodgers in '88)."
**St. Louis Cardinals v. New York Yankees
***"Have met in five World Series (1926, 1928, 1942, 1943, and 1964) with the Cardinals winning three."
**Cincinnati Reds v. New York Yankees
***"Have met in three World Series (1939, 1961, and 1976) with the Yankees winning twice. The teams exchanged four game sweeps in '39 (Yankees) and '76 (Reds) with the Yankees taking the '61 Series in five games."
**Cincinnati Reds v. Oakland Athletics
***"Met in both the 1972 and 1990 World Series with the teams splitting their meetings (Athletics in seven in '72, Reds in four straight in '90)."
**Chicago Cubs v. Detroit Tigers
***"Have met in four World Series (1907, 1908, 1935, and 1945) with the Cubs winning the first two and the Tigers the last two. The Cubs' last World Series title to date (1908) and last pennant to date (1945) are both part of this rivalry."
**Oakland Athletics v. St. Louis Cardinals
***"While the Athletics played in Philadelphia, these two met in back-to-back World Series: 1930 with the Athletics winning in six games and 1931 with the Cardinals winning in seven games."
**Minnesota Twins v. San Francisco Giants
***"This rivlry dates to the 1920s and 30s when the Giants played in New York and the Twins in Washington as the Nationals/Senators. The two met in both the 1924 and 1933 World Series, Washington winning the first in seven games, New York the second in five games. The 1924 title is the only World Series title to date for any Washington franchise."
**Chicago Cubs v. New York Yankees
***"Met in both the 1932 and 1938 World Series, both Yankee sweeps. The '32 Series was famous, of course, for Babe Ruth's alleged "called shot" home run at Wrigley Field."
** Atlanta Braves v. Cleveland Indians
***"Met in both the 1948 and 1995 World Series, the Indians winning the first in six games (their last World Series title to date) over the then-Boston Braves and the Braves the second, also in six games, for their only World Series title to date in Atlanta."
**Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago Cubs
***"Met in the 1918 World Series, won by the Red Sox in six games. The Red Sox, of course, wouldn't win another World Series for 86 years despite four appearances in between."
**Boston Red Sox vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
***"Met in the very first World Series (1903), with the Red Sox (known then as the Pilgrims) winning the best-of-nine series, five games to three."
**Chicago Cubs vs. Oakland Athletics
***"This rivalry dates to the 1910s and 20s, when the Cubs met the then-Philadelphia Athletics in the 1910 and 1929 World Series. Both were five-game victories for the Athletics. "


These are just some arguments for and against Interleague play.


*Interleague matchplay increases attendance. [ [ The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK - Rivalies add to interleague play ] ]
*Fans can see players they might not otherwise get to see, especially those who have only ever played in one league, such as Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Brandon Webb, etc.
*Certain geographic rivalries are played out during the regular season that otherwise might not happen for years at a time. The Yankees now play 6 games against the Mets each season every year whereas they would only have gone head to head in the 2000 World Series if not for interleague play.
*It creates matchups that might not have been seen in generations. For example, during the 2004 season, the Giants and Red Sox played each other for the first time since meeting in the 1912 World Series, and the Red Sox had never played at Wrigley Field until by|2005. In by|2007, the San Francisco Giants hosted the New York Yankees for the first time in the regular season at AT&T Park in San Francisco, in which the Giants took the series 2–1.
*It allows for a rematch of the World Series. This has occurred in eight of the twelve seasons of interleague play: by|1997 (Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees), by|2000 (New York Yankees at Atlanta Braves), by|2001 (New York Mets vs. New York Yankees), by|2002 (Arizona Diamondbacks at New York Yankees), by|2005 (Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals), by|2006 (Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox, happened again in 2007), by|2007 and by|2008 (St. Louis Cardinals at Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves at Toronto Blue Jays)


*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.
*National League designated hitters 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 (which only affects 2 of the 16 games in a season). 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 like the NHL, 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 most 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 competitive 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.

ee also

*List of Major League Baseball rivalries

External links

* [ Proposals for interleague play prior to 1997]
* [ For head to head listings, choose team and the time period to get full list and results]


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