Beeston abuzz on interleague play

A pair of Toronto Blue Jays aren’t thrilled about the number of interleague games.
Team president Paul Beeston and manager Cito Gaston expressed their displeasure that 18 games are played against National League opponents (that’s just a smidge over 11 percent of the season).
Beeston bemoaned the fact that his Jays have had trouble beating the senior circuit, holding a 109-126 mark in interleague play after being swept by the host Colorado Rockies over the weekend.
Unfortunately for Beeston, that speaks more to the quality of teams that Toronto has put forth over the years given American League teams have held a decided advantage in interleague play, posting a 1,673-1,534 record entering this year’s play.
In addition, only five of the 16 National League teams held historical winning records against American League teams coming into this season.
Sure, it could be argued the Jays have had it tough in the scheduling department. In each of the past five years, Toronto has faced at least one of the National League’s playoff teams, and in each of the last three years has matched up against the eventual NL champions (Philadelphia the last two years and Colorado back in 2007).
Heck, in 2008, the Jays even caught three of the National League’s four playoff teams. Not exactly an easy road to hoe.
But on the other hand, for every tough opponent, the Jays get tossed a bone in perennial also-rans from Pittsburgh or Washington, so things tend to even out overall.
Some of Beeston’s further comments suggest that instead of reducing the number of interleague games, perhaps doing away with it altogether is the solution.
“I think you have to look at the DH. You’ve got two sets of rules, one for one league, one for the other, and it seems unfair, in our particular case, with pitchers hitting in the National League parks and potentially getting hurt,” Beeston told the Canadian Press.
Use a designated hitter in a National League park—even for the handful of games NL parks host? That’ll happen just as soon as Kansas City wins the American League pennant.
In other words, don’t hold your breath.
Certainly, injuries are a major concern for American League teams entering ballparks where the pitcher will be required to bat. It’s easy to point to the example of N.Y. Yankees’ pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who was injured while running the bases in 2008 and knocked out for the year.
While it’s an occasional hazard for AL hurlers, it’s a fact of life for those in the NL—and injuries like Wang’s are rare.
That injury was just a freak occurrence, and one that was unfortunate for the Yanks.
Sure, it’s odd that one half of Major League Baseball operates under one rule and the other half doesn’t, but it’s one of those interesting quirks. And it’s not a huge deal because over the course of the season, 18 games really isn’t that much interaction.
As it stands now, interleague play is just a mid-season breather to save the inter-divisional rivalries for later in the season.
If it became more than that, and interleague play made up a larger portion of the season, then it’s a rule that probably should be looked at. Maybe have pitchers bat in all interleague games one year, and then use the designated hitter exclusively in the next.
But at this point, the AL only has to play under the different rules for nine games a season, or just over five percent.
There aren’t enough games to make it worth bringing in a longball threat like Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano, who has 20 career home runs, but the Blue Jays just should spend the time to make the pitchers competent at the plate.
Many of the NL pitchers aren’t exactly accomplished hitters, so just trying to get pitchers at the plate into a position where they successfully can lay down a sacrifice bunt, or at least see a few pitches from their counterpart to put up a productive at-bat, likely would mean an AL team can consider itself even.
Beeston’s final grievance was that the Blue Jays don’t have a natural National League rival, such as New York, L.A., and Chicago with their cross-town rivalries, or even the cross-state rivalries in Ohio, Texas, and Florida.
Sure, the Jays got to tango with the Montreal Expos before the franchise moved to Washington in 2004. In many of the following seasons, the Jays still lined up with the one-time Expos during the two rivalry weekends—a total of six games against a theoretically cheesecake opponent.
If I were Beeston, I’d strongly reconsider my statements.
• • •
It’s not hard to sympathize with Chad Canfield and the rest of the Muskie football program this week.
Canfield, his coaching staff, and about 25 dedicated players took to the field all last week to get the basis laid down for the 2010 WHSFL football season in September.
Before camp, Canfield noted his desired roster would include about 50 players, allowing each player to concentrate on one position instead of having the lion’s share of his team taking on both offensive and defensive responsibilities.
In his comments following Saturday afternoon’s intrasquad scrimmage, Canfield called on Fort High’s other athletes to come out for the football team and pitch in.
That certainly would be the ideal situation since the Muskies would have a much better chance of on-field success, which is crucial to get the program back onto solid footing.
That said, it’s a difficult request to make of the school’s athletes from other sports.
Winning isn’t everything, but it’s not the easiest decision for the centrepiece of Fort High’s NorWOSSA champion basketball teams or hockey teams to come out and play for the fledgling football squad and risk sustaining an injury that could keep him out of one of the sports he takes more seriously.
If a star from one of those teams steps up and hits the gridiron in the fall, all the power to him—it’d be great to see another player out there.
At any rate, the football program is caught in a catch-22: it’s difficult to attract players without a winning pedigree, but it’s hard to build up that tradition without players.
Here’s hoping some eligible players, be they star athletes or first-timers, pull on the black-and-gold sweater and help to resurrect the program.

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