At Home Plate: Daily interleague play gives game new feel

For the first time in franchise history, the Astros need to find an everyday designated hitter.

With the Astros’ impending move to the AL, both leagues will have 15 teams. While this makes sense from a balance standpoint, interleague play will now be a daily occurrence, even on Opening Day. The Cincinnati Reds will host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first-ever Opening Day interleague series.

As it stands, each team will play 20 interleague games in 2013. Each division will match up with a division from the opposing league for one three-game series against four teams and the four remaining games — two home, two away — against the final team.

Photo by Jonathan Leshanski

Photo by Jonathan Leshanski

For the most part, this will not be a huge issue. Interleague play has been part of the game for the past 16 seasons, so it’s not like any franchises will be squaring off for the first time.

But the problem with this system will be exhibited in September. Normally, the schedule makers clump divisional series in succession in the last month of the season to make the races for divisional crown interesting.

Now, one of the four teams in the division will be playing an interleague series as the others go head-to-head. Those out-of-division games in September can wind up having a huge impact on who wins the title.

In a way though, having an equal number of teams in each league levels the playing field rather than accommodating “rivalry” series.

For the past few years, the New York Yankees have had the luxury of playing the lowly New York Mets six times per season based on the geographic rivalry. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles were forced to play the Washington Nationals six times per season.

Now, both rivalry series will be four games each. Hopefully, the level playing field will come to fruition in September with some close divisional races.

It’s really not going to be such a big change. Each day, there will be either one of three interleague games because there will always be an odd number based on the odd numbers of teams in each league.

Maybe someday, the league will adopt two more teams to have a similar structure to the NFL, which has 16 teams in each league split over four divisions.

Instead of having six playoff teams per league, MLB can go back to four with each division winner earning a postseason berth. But since it’s become a money game, the more playoff teams the better according to Bud Selig.

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