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A proposal to improve interleague play

Phillies-Yankees tonight. Hey, that's pretty cool, right? Can't get better than a World Series rematch!

Except that, if you're a stickler for order (like me, admittedly), then you might be wondering, "How exactly does the interleague scheduling work that the Yankees and Phillies play each other, even though the Yankees' designated interleague division this year is the NL West? And didn't they just play each other last year, also at Yankee Stadium?"

Those are questions you should be asking. There used to be some structure to the interleague schedule, even if that structure was based on, "Hey, let's have the Yankees and Mets play each other six times a year because those games sell out!" At least the Yankees and Mets would play teams from their designated divisions the rest of the time.

Since 2007, however, that structure has been just decimated, and for no good reason. The Yankees play just two teams in the NL West, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, while also facing the Phillies and Astros. The Mets play three teams in the AL Central - the Indians, Twins and Tigers - while also playing the Orioles at Baltimore _ just as they did last year.

In addition to this chaos, I think 18 interleague games is just too much. It's too long a stretch. It's weird, at least to me, that Stephen Strasburg's second, third and fourth career starts will come against AL clubs.

So I'm going to repeat a proposal I've made here before (but can't find):

1) Shorten the interleague schedule to one week, featuring two three-game series. If it were truly up to me, I'd wipe out interleague play altogether, but that's not happening.

2) Keep the rotating, designated divisions, and then borrow a page from the NFL. Make the first-place and second-place teams from one year play each other the subsequent year, and third-place and fourth-place teams do the same. That way, you theoretically contribute to parity, by giving the worse teams an easier schedule and the better teams a harder one.

This year, for instance, the Yankees, having won the AL East in 2009, would play the Dodgers and Colorado, since they finished first and second in the NL West. And the Mets, having finished fourth in the NL East last year, would play the White Sox and either Kansas City or Cleveland, since the Royals and Indians finished with an identical 67-95 record.

To flesh it out, you have the Orioles (fifth in last year's AL East) play the Diamondbacks and Astros; because the AL East and NL East matched up last year, give Baltimore a chance to play someone different. Then you have the loser of the Royals-Indians tiebreaker play the Nationals and Diamondbacks.

That takes care of the AL. In the NL, the Pirates - the only sixth-place team, since only the NL Central has six clubs - play the Astros and Nationals.

3) To make up those 12 games you've lost, you add four intraleague, interdivision series. The wild-card determinations are wildly unfair now because the teams vying for that fourth playoff spot play such different schedules. This would make that aspect slightly less unfair, although the unbalanced schedule (teams playing teams within their division 18 times) still ensures that schedules will be nothing close to equivalent.

So that's it. This definitely would cost clubs some money, because that's two fewer NL teams a year that would get to host the Yankees and Red Sox. But sometimes, you have to prioritize integritiy over revenue.

And right now, the ratio of revenue to integrity, when it comes to the interleague schedule, is a lot to zero.

--Roy Halladay starts for the Phillies tonight, and while I loathe using won-loss record as a measure for pitchers, you nevertheless have to tip your hat to Halladay. The guy has an 18-6 career record against the Yankees, and not once in his 12 years with Toronto did the Blue Jays post a superior record to the Yankees.

--Rest in peace, Oscar Azocar. I recall Azocar's brief stint as a Yankees prospect. Hopefully we'll get more information about how he passed away at the young age of 45.

--Very good piece by the Wall Street Journal's Scott Cacciola on Dandy, the beleaguered Yankees mascot from 1979 through 1981. I remember Dandy well. Even when I was eight, I remember thinking, "Do the Yankees really need a mascot?" Apparently, George Steinbrenner agreed, but only after signing off on this character.

Hat tip to the Watchdog, Neil Best, for alerting me to this story, via Twitter.

--David Lennon writes about Ruben Tejada, who has pleased the Mets with his defensive poise, even if he's not hitting much. Realistically, Tejada will return to the minor leagues once Luis Castillo gets healthy, and maybe Castillo can provide his characteristic marginal value by getting on base some.

But looking ahead to this winter, if the Mets at least finish the season in good spirits, if not necessarily in the playoffs, perhaps they'll be emboldened to finally pay Castillo to play elsewhere. Next year will be the last year of Castillo's albatross deal, so maybe the Mets will find a club actually willing to pay some of his $6 million salary. Or, at least, give up a lesser prospect in return for the Mets providing the dough.

--I wrote a feature story today about the Year of the Pitcher, and tried to add my two cents. Thanks to NaOH, who helped me crunch some numbers. Or, to be more precise, crunched some numbers.

--I'll check in tonight from the Stadium.

 

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