Interleague play rocks!
Well it does this weekend as the Oakland Athletics, like our mopes and gripes, have been swept from Shea not a moment too soon and, for those of you who grip a good grudge, 34 years too late.
No sense dumping on some team we are not likely to see again in these parts for several years (anything is possible come October, but there are too many hurdles to consider before worrying about posting inflammatory quotes on karma's bulletin board). We've got Cardinal ghosts to strangle and Phillies whose pulse it would be most delightful to kick the living spit out of. If only saying it made it so.
But before our guests from the west depart our consciousness, a few thoughts on Oakland, the American League and the circuit-crossing we are compelled to indulge in every June.
The Athletics: Is there another team in big-time sports whose name is the plural of an adjective? Say Connie, ya got some real athletic types on your roster there. What ya thinkin' of callin' 'em? Maybe Mack forgot to give them a real moniker. I vote retroactively for the Hey Mack!s. FYI: The actual answer as to why they're the Athletics is they were formed from an Athletic Club in Philadelphia. Kind of disappointing, eh?
The A's: I liked it better when the single letter was on their uniforms. The A's have been one of the most interesting franchises in baseball for the last 40 years, easily identifiable for stretches at a time without becoming long-term stereotypes of themselves. The Swingin' A's. The dynastic A's. The Finley-filleted to within an inch of their competitive lives A's. The nearly moved to Denver A's. The Stanley Burrell A's (when nobody would touch them). The Shooty Babbit, Billyball, complete games 'til their arms fell off A's. The Bash Brother, La Russa, Eckersley, isn't our elephant cute, best team in the game A's. The disappointing postseason A's. The Moneyball A's. Except for a week in 1973 and a couple of days in 2005 (and from Friday night 'til this afternoon), I've rather liked the A's. On the other hand, there were the goddamn Jeremy Giambi wouldn't slide in 2001 A's. The Eric Chavez should have kept his mouth shut before firing up the Yankees in 2000 A's. The pawned Art Howe off on us A's. The found a use for Marco Scutaro A's. The holding Mike Piazza hostage (a compensated, willing hostage, I grant you) so our retirement of his number will have to be interminably delayed A's. Suddenly I don't find the A's amusing anymore.
Interleague Residue: Now that their green and gold jet has presumably lifted off from La Guardia, I don't care about the A's anymore. Or the Twins. Or the Tigers. Or the whole bunch of 'em. Well, beat the Yankees, bunch, and otherwise do what you have to do to each other. I have a favorite American League team, the Angels. And I don't care what happens to them either all that much.
Interleague Scheduling: How did the Dodgers and Blue Jays wind up playing a home-and-home? Radical yet rational revision to the whole mess: Take the Phillies and Pirates (intrastate rivals), Tigers and Blue Jays (neighbors) and Diamondbacks and Rockies (same obscure time zone, give or take daylight savings) out of the Interleague equation. Give each pair the six games you give the Mets and Yankees, Dodgers and Angels and the other “natural” rivals or at least the ones that make a modicum of sense. Philly and Pittsburgh should play each other more. Ditto Toronto and Detroit. Pittsburgh plays Houston more than Philadelphia (nice 1994 realignment ya got there, Bud). I'm sure Colorado and Arizona play each other enough, but they, too, could be stoked into a representative regional rivalry if both teams ever got good. And then drop everything else. 156 league games, 6 rivalry games for all 30 teams. There, there's your schedule after 2008. Why after 2008? The White Sox and Rangers have yet to make their maiden voyage to Flushing for National League baseball and I want them here for completism's sake (we've visited every A.L. park already). Then finish the cycle, stop the madness, X out all A's, O's, M's and Sox from our dance card. May Citi Field never host an out-of-town American League franchise prior to October…and one from anywhere else every October.
The American League: Kill the DH. Not literally (I have nothing lethal against Jack Cust after today). But enough with the “ninth spot” in the batting order. Watching a bit of the Yankees and Giants earlier, there was all this flagellating Mussina over his not pitching around whoever was batting eighth with a runner on second (he gave up a run-scoring hit in the process) and how, you know, in the National League they actually let the pitcher bat. Yes, they do. You know why? Because it's baseball. I could go round and round with arguments you've all heard and probably made for decades. Let's let “because it's baseball” suffice.
The Mets: So maybe they're not as bad as they looked when they were dreadful. Are they as good as they looked when they were kicking A? Oakland's an above-average A.L. outfit, beset by key injuries at the moment (who isn't?) and got one great start and two mediocre outings from its moundsmen. But I think it's reasonable to assess that Reyes is burning up the charts, Gomez is growing into his big league pants, Beltran's awake, Wright's alive, Valentin and Easley suddenly aren't creaky and Green is blessedly versatile. Lo Duca's mental but he's also solid. We need Delgado, but when haven't we? Glavine, Hernandez and Maine gave up three runs among them this weekend and when they were called on, the late-inning men were spot on. First place was ours when we sucked, it's even more ours now that we've stopped sucking. Conclusion for the moment: no panic, no picnic…and no more American League.