I’ll always remember the moment I thought Interleague Play (for the Mets, anyway) reached its zenith. July 10th, 1999 – the year I really became a Mets fan – a massive comeback by the Mets, scoring two off of Mariano Rivera on a Matt Franco walk-off single, over the Yankees (who proved their “Bronx Bombers” moniker after hitting 5 home runs), 9-8, clinching at least an eventual series split.
(I’ll remember it largely because I wasn’t in New York at the time, coming up from seeing the Blue Jays and the Orioles in Baltimore – I’ll always remember my Pops smacking the steering wheel with joy as Gary Cohen’s call came through the radio speakers as we were coming up the Jersey Turnpike.)
The fact that Interleague Play was only in its third year when it reached its zenith, shows that Interleague Play should be an ephemeral, and not a lasting, gimmick. (Ironic I’m talking about gimmicks, by the way, on the day with the 800-pound gorilla of gimmicks – the cold weather Super Bowl – finally comes to fruition with the Meadowlands hosting Super Bowl XLVIII.) It’s simply well past its welcome – which is due to a few different reasons.
Interleague Play started out as cool because teams you almost never saw at your favorite team’s ballpark (you know, except for the World Series) played there – I remember a Mets-Red Sox series (at Shea, in 1999 – see a pattern?), and they had Ted Williams Night (he was actually there! The Splendid Splinter, in the flesh! That was really something.). As the years went by, though, the matchups just got less and less interesting.
It didn’t help matters much that they started moving up Interleague Play from June-July (where there was seamless transition from interleague to the All-Star Game) to May-June (where there was…um…interleague play). It didn’t help that some teams simply didn’t have strong rivalries (’cause let’s face it, Diamondbacks-Tigers just ain’t that interesting). It certainly didn’t help that, starting in 2002, they had rotation of divisions, instead of East versus East, Central versus Central, West versus West (and let’s be honest here, not many Mets fans could be excited for Mets-White Sox, whether the White Sox are good or not). To me, that was the true death knell.
And while it’s a cash cow for Major League Baseball – still puts rumps in the seats – it just has lost the appeal. Even the Subway Series, which used to have New York abuzz, has lost the pizzazz (count the ‘z”s in that sentence, by the way. Wow.). And when that goes, so does the rest of the interleague schedule. Slap me if I’m sounding like a baseball purist (don’t worry, I won’t go off about how the All-Star Game shouldn’t be for home-field in the World Series – though it shouldn’t – or how baseball games should be played outside on grass – retractable-roof domes are cool by me – or how World Series games should be played in the day – at least weekends?), but Interleague Play simply should have been put to bed while it had the chance.