Playing Hard Ball
Play Between the Two Leagues Will Only Benefit Money-Hungry Owners and Television Executives

UCSD Guardian Opinion
March 10, 1997

Spring has returned to San Diego. For a great many Americans, the coming of spring signals the return of baseball.

The season starts slowly with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. Yet, it ends with fine-tuned baseball teams facing each other on the field. Each team hopes to win enough games to earn a pennant and, perhaps, even a World Series title.

As a baseball fan, I wish for nothing more than to go down to the construction zone that is Jack Murphy Stadium (or Qualcomm Park at Jack Murphy Field, or whatever) on a clear, beautiful San Diego day and watch the likes of Ken Caminiti, Tony Gwynn or Steve Finley dive after a ground ball or chase down a lazy fly ball in the summer sun. However, the owners of Major League Baseball have a plan to throw the system out of lurch -- the introduction of interleague play.

After almost a hundred years of separation, the owners want to bring the two leagues -- the National and the American -- together to compete on a regular basis.

Previously, the two leagues only competed together twice a year--once during the middle of the season at the All-Star Game and again in the fall during the World Series.

Despite the tremendous potential that interleague play has for the rejuvenation of the game, now is not the time for such a scheme.

After more than 90 years, the current set-up still works like a charm. Millions of fans watch baseball every year, to follow their team or their players for better or worse. Now the owners want to change the entire system.

While they have their individual reasons for introducing interleague play, I'd like to wager that most owners were thinking only about money when discussing this drastic move.

Interleague play could sound like the perfect cure to Major League Baseball's problems over the past few years. The mere prospect of superstars from both leagues facing each other head-on seems like a dream come true to fans, owners and television producers.

However, let's look at the historical record. Expanding the leagues with new teams, splitting each league into three divisions and having a ridiculously long postseason have all contributed to the diminishing quality of professional baseball.

If there are any doubts about this, you only need look at the statistics. In each year since the leagues were split into three divisions, at least one division leader has fought to stay above .500, a mediocre winning percentage for a top team in baseball. Pitching has been spread so thin that teams have been forced to scour the globe in search of new talent. Interleague play will not solve these problems.

The role of the designated hitter (DH) is another question that should be addressed. Basically, the premise of the DH is that the team's pitcher can throw the ball like everyone else, but please take the bat away from him and give it to someone who can at least hit the side of a barn. One caveat about the DH -- it's allowed in American League parks but not National League fields.

Some argue that the DH allows players to extend their careers because it lets them hit, but doesn't require them to take the field like the rest of the team. However, if a player is no longer useful, why keep him? Let him take his millions and go home.

These issues underscore a much bigger problem in Major League Baseball. For more than five years, the owners of baseball have been operating without a commissioner.

The commissioner of baseball is responsible for the well-being of the game. Because owners seem to be more concerned over their own well-being, they threw out the last commissioner, replacing him with one of their own -- "Acting Commissioner" and Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig.

This is a joke. Owners have taken free reign of Major League Baseball, and it shows. The owners care about as much for the fans as a person who steps on a bug cares for his victim. Interleague play is not for our benefit. It is for the benefit of the owners, the players and the media.

Most importantly, interleague play will take away from the uniqueness and thrill of the All-Star Game and the World Series.

It is this originality that is the entire thrill of baseball. Baseball is about the unpredictable struggle between the pitcher and the batter. No matter how many stats you can recite off the top of your head, baseball is always a surprise.

It's not too late to shelve interleague play. After this first season, baseball owners will look at how well the idea is received by the public. They will count their money and decide whether to continue this system. It's not too late to convince the owners to change their ways and again make baseball a game for the fans.