View Full Version : Interleague Intrigue…In the Central Divisions?

05-20-2006, 01:54 PM
Mods... please merge this with the other thread discussing interleague play; I can't seem to find it.

May 19, 2006

Interleague Intrigue…In the Central Divisions?
by Susan Kelly

As a baseball purist, interleague play has been the raspberry seed in my craw ever since its inception. I’d much rather see my favorite teams taking on their divisional rivals and save the interleague stuff for the post-season where it belongs. I’ve always thought of these games as nothing more than an unnecessary distraction created by the powers that be in MLB to use as another money making deal. But as hard as I try to dislike the specter of interleague play, something always manages to pop up and give it some appeal. Usually it’s the big crosstown rivalries like the Mets/Yankees and Cubs/White Sox, or the oddities like the Devil Rays/Marlins. This year, the interleague intrigue is coming from a very unlikely source…the NL and AL Central.

Yes, that’s right – the Central Divisions. Normally known for their sleep inducing properties, both the NL and AL Central have been hotbeds of activity this season. The NL Central is currently sporting an unlikely dogfight between the heavily favored Cardinals and the up and coming Cincinnati Reds, with the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers nipping at their heels. Meanwhile, in the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers are slugging it out for first place. All of which brings us to one of the most unlikely hot interleague match ups of all…between the Tigers and the Reds. Each team has been far outweighing expectations thus far, and now they’re coming together for a weekend match up that promises to be one of the more exciting of the season. You’ve got to love this game.

The Tigers are coming into the series with a seven game win streak, their longest such streak in over a decade, led by veteran hurler Kenny Rogers who extended the streak to seven games with a victory over the Minnesota Twins last night which also made him the first seven game winner in the majors this season. Now the Tigers hand the ball to Jeremy Bonderman (4-2, 3.74 ERA) hoping that he can win for the fourth time in his last five starts. It’s a tall order, but one which the Tigers rotation has been up to filling of late, with a generous helping of assistance from the offense. With the latest win, the Tigers find themselves in first place in the AL Central, one game ahead of the defending World Champion Chicago White Sox. It’s not a position the Tigers are used to and certainly not one which anyone expected them to hold, but they’ll take it.

Over in the NL, the Cincinnati Reds had gotten off to a hot start, keeping pace with the perennial NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals. After a 23-12 surge, the Reds have suddenly hit a skid and dropped five in a row, but they are still a force to be reckoned with. The resurgence of slugger Ken Griffey, Jr. has fortified an already strong lineup, which emphasized its never say die spirit with a stunning comeback from a 6-0 deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-8 last night. The Reds begin play tonight two games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and look to starter Brandon Claussen (2-4, 4.96 ERA) to right the ship.

It’s not about to make anyone forget the Subway series or the battle for Chicago, nor will it take any of the luster off the classic Giants/Dodgers duels of the past, but the fight for Central Division dominance should provide plenty of entertainment for beleaguered Tigers and Reds fans. Detroit and Cincinnati are jumping these days, and the fans couldn’t be happier about it. Heaven knows they deserve it, particularly the folks in Motown, who have been longing just to see .500 for several years now.

These are the kind of games that baseball is all about…the little guys reminding everyone that they’re in the fight too. Does the heart good to see exciting baseball being played across the board, even if it does mean that I have to swallow my pride and give interleague play a nod again. Just like baseball to throw you a curve when you least expect it. Ah well…I guess interleague play can stay for another year. It still bothers me to no end, but what the heck? They’re going to have a blast in Detroit this weekend and that’s all good. So let the interleague games begin, and may the best teams win!