Baltimore Orioles: Should MLB tweak interleague play?
The Baltimore Orioles are off today, as are their next opponent: the Philadelphia Phillies. These two teams used to be one another’s “local rival,” that is prior to the Washington Nationals moving in closer. However you still have a situation where the further north of Baltimore you go the more the fan bases start bleeding together. For the record, I’ve always seen the Delaware/Maryland state line as the demarcation point so to speak.
However that aside, the Orioles will go into interleague play tomorrow evening when Philadelphia comes in for the first time this season. But keep in mind that this series, along with their next interleague series against Washington, won’t necessarily be a huge deal for the Birds. It’ll be like any other game in a sense, because the games will be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. That means American League rules – under which the Orioles play almost every game.
It’s when the Orioles make a return trip to Washington and Philadelphia in June and July respectively that things will feel different. The Orioles will have to then surrender their DH, and insert their pitchers into the lineup. Let me be honest; I prefer the National League game. I enjoy seeing pitchers hit, and quite frankly I’d prefer to see the American League get rid of it. I recognize that the NL is much more likely to adopt it at some point than anything else, however that’s just my personal preference.
However do the different rules in different leagues not give the National League teams a distinct advantage? For this week’s short series, Philadelphia will be able to in essence take a position player and have him swing a bat as a DH instead of a pitcher. However fast forward to when the O’s go on the road in an NL park. They lose a bat in favor of a pitcher.
This is not to say that there aren’t pitchers who can’t make a difference at the plate. Washington’s Max Scherzer has turned into a decent hitter (hitting .292 on the year thus far, although with only 24 plate appearances). He even stole a base earlier this year. The Orioles once won a game in Washington off of a swinging bunt by reliever Danys Baez. Again folks, off the bat of a relief pitcher – even National League teams seem to rarely have a relief pitcher have to take his turn at the plate. (The Orioles were out of hitters in that situation and had no choice.)
But you get where I’m going with this; the National League has a distinct advantage. Interestingly enough however, the American League has the historical advantage in interleague games at 2890-2574 (dating to the end of 2017). However I’m not talking about overal records between the leagues. I’m talking more about in the here and now. That’s the bigger deal.
While Philadelphia is in Baltimore, New York will be in Washington this week. Thus they’ll surrender their DH, while Boston won’t be. Philadelphia will be enjoying the luxury of a DH (a better bat in the lineup), whereas Washington won’t be. Yes it all evens out in the end, but sometimes it does matter when you end up facing teams and so forth.
So I would submit that the rules should be streamlined for interleague play. Pick a set of rules, and have all interleague games played by those rules. Odds are that if such a thing happened they’d pick American League rules, and have a DH universally used during interleague play – both in American League and National League parks. If I had my pick it would be the pitchers hitting in both league’s parks. But either way, make it uniform across the board.