Interleague play too much of a good thing

Andy Call

Bud Selig is seldom credited for his ideas that have actually worked -- the

wild card, for instance.

Selig’s 1997 brainchild, interleague play, injected some life into a

stagnating game. The idea of being able to see stars from the other league excited fans, and those fans used their checkbooks to demonstrate that excitement. A decade later, however, many in baseball are saying it’s time to take a more critical look at Selig’s good idea.

“I think the novelty has worn off,” Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul

Konerko told John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus. “For the most part, they are just other games to play, and they can be a bother at times because interleague play can create havoc with the schedule.

“The natural rivalry games, like White Sox-Cubs or Yankees-Mets, are still

exciting. I know the people in Chicago get excited when we play the Cubs. The other games, though? I just don’t see the excitement any more.”

Konerko is not the only one wondering if some of the shine has worn off the apple.

“I just don’t like interleague play in general,” Cleveland Manager Eric

Wedge said -- after his team had taken two of three from Philadelphia. “Maybe a home-and-home series against your so-called rival, something like that.

“Everybody has tried to be politically correct for how many years now? But, no, I don’t like it.”

The problem is, perhaps, too much of a good thing.

Some teams played 18 games against the other league this season. That’s too many. The inequities of the interleague schedule can have too great an impact on the division races. The Tigers and Angels were both 14-4 against the National League’s weak sisters this summer, which could be key to both qualifying for the postseason.

National League teams must deal with an inequity in the number of games. Cincinnati played 18 interleague games in 2007, the Cubs 12 and everybody else 15.

Dodgers infielder Jeff Kent said this week that interleague games are being “force-fed” to the fans and players.

Too much of a good thing also means more meaningless matchups. St. Louis fans might get a little charged up to play Kansas City. But, what about the other teams that must convince fans to pay money to watch the pesky Royals? Or the Pirates? Or the Devil Rays? It would seem that another home series against a division opponent would generate more interest than an interleague matchup with a poor opponent.

Interleague games have drawn an average of 13 percent better than games between teams in the same league, including 15 percent this season. We’d bet a large part of that increase can be attributed to the true rivalries that provoke sellouts and near-sellouts.

Selig’s idea was a good one. Fans should have a chance to see the top teams and players from the other league. But not 18 times a year.

Let’s keep a good thing. Let’s eliminate too much of a good thing.

Control Freak

Veteran Indians right-hander Paul Byrd has seven wins and five walks this season. The last pitcher to finish a full season with more wins than walks was Cincinnati’s Slim Sallee (21 wins, 20 walks) in 1919. Sallee,

incidentally, was born in Higginsport, Ohio.

Bret Saberhagen finished the strike-shortened 1994 season with 14 wins and 13 walks for the New York Mets.

Where's the Tinkerbell?

It has been wild week for Chicago White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors ... and in rumors about a contract extension ... and in rumors about a contract extension, then a trade.

“Someone told me that my name and Paris Hilton’s name have been in the newspapers the most this week,” Buehrle told the Sun-Times.

One radio report indicated Buehrle would sign a four-year, $50-million deal -- chump change for one of the game’s top pitchers.

“I guess someone drugged me (Tuesday) night, and I signed it,” Buehrle said.

Tiger Tales

Detroit’s Carlos Guillen drove in a run in 10 consecutive games, the longest RBI streak since Mike Piazza (15) in 2000 and the longest by a Tigers player since Willie Horton (10) in 1976.

Another Tigers note -- Curtis Granderson (10 home runs, 22 doubles, 14

triples) is the ninth player in big-league history to reach double figures

in all three categories before the All-Star break.

Three's No Crowd

We’re not sure how ESPN’s Jayson Stark comes up with this stuff, but he

reports that Johan Santana’s triple last Sunday was the first by a defending American League Cy Young Award winner since Early Wynn’s three-bagger off Cleveland’s Dick Stigman in 1960.

Penthouse to Outhouse

Murray Chass of the New York Times notes that Pittsburgh is on its way to a 15th consecutive losing season following a first-place finish in 1992 and Baltimore is on the road to a 10th consecutive losing season following a first-place finish in 1997.

Only two other teams have experienced such a string of losing following a

championship season, Boston (15 losing seasons after 1918) and the

Philadelphia Athletics (10 after 1914).

Hart Attack

Ken Rosenthal of speculated this week that former Texas

General Manager John Hart could return to the Rangers in a more prominent role than his present consultant’s job. Texas GM Jon Daniels was recently given a contract extension through 2009, but Hart’s experience might prove valuable to an organization that must soon make some difficult decisions.

The End

Former big-league outfielder Mel Hall faces a possible life sentence for

sexually assaulting two girls on a basketball team he was coaching in 1998 and 1999.

Hall, 46, was charged in North Richland Hills, Texas, last week and released on $35,000 bail. There was also an outstanding warrant against him for a theft charge. He had also been arrested in 1998 for trespassing.

Hall played for the Cubs, Indians, Yankees and Giants from 1981-92 and for the Giants in 1996.

Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at 330-580-8346 or