There's been a lot to talk about thus far in this Red Sox season, mostly good, but some bad. One of the most increasingly nagging and obnoxious things in recent memory is the MLB's obsession with Interleague Play. There needs to be a complete re-vamping of this system if it is going to work for some teams. The Red Sox are one of the teams whom Interleague Play is starting to hurt. They have dropped to 5-5 in this grand experiment that won't go away. Last night was just the latest in Interleague woes for a team that was clicking on all cylinders previous to the last week or so. There are two things I do not like about Interleague Play. Let's start with pitchers batting. How can the MLB reasonably justify putting your most important players on the field to do something that they don't normally do (in the AL at least)? A pitcher's mental state, pace, and comfort is their biggest strength outside of pure, raw stuff and by them batting is putting all of that in jeopardy. Especially for a team like the Red Sox, which has a potent offense, it essentially shrinks the batting order from 9 to 8 batters. It's like putting Jorge Posada in your lineup.
This bring me to my next point and the second thing about why Interleague Play should be no more. There are two different sets of rules in the MLB, between the leagues. Yes, the game is the same and it is just the personnel that changes, but different teams in each league are built a certain way. A team like the Red Sox is put in a particularly inconvenient situation due to this style of play. You have a resurgent DH who has found the fountain of youth in David Ortiz, but a DH/1B style MVP candidate in Adrian Gonzalez. So what do you do? Here are the options.
Option 1: Sit David Ortiz and play Gonzalez at 1B. This seems to be the popular option, but Ortiz has been on a tear lately and he is in a contract year. Why take a guy out of his rhythm for NINE games when he has been so important to this season's success? Not only do you take him out of a rhythm, but you diminish his confidence and risk injury upon his reinsertion to the lineup.
Option 2: Sit Gonzalez and play Ortiz at 1B. The issue here is not Ortiz's defensive capabilities, although they are significantly less than Gonzalez's. The problem is sitting Gonzalez. Before this season began, Adrian expressed his wishes to play all 162 games this season. The chances of that happening are very small, but again why take the first half AL MVP out of his groove? This may make Ortiz happy and confident, but it weakens the first base position AND the batting lineup. No one player should be put before the team.
Option 3: Play Gonzalez in RF and Ortiz at 1B. Another catch 22. Your batting order is at its best (especially with JD Drew out of there), but your defense is in a bad spot. You slow down the outfield with Gonzo and put him at a major risk for injury. The chances are slim, but why even risk him diving for a ball or running into a wall. Adrian plays at one speed, full, and if he is tracking down a fly ball, he will do anything to get it. So with this option, your offense is clicking, but the defense is lacking now in two positions.
My solution to all of this is a platoon. To what extent, I do not know. That is why Tito gets paid the big bucks. Do anything possible to keep Gonzo out of right field. It just does not make sense to put your best player at risk like that. Ortiz can't possibly sit all 9 games, because that just throws him off, when he has been every bit as important this season. Bottom line, interleague play is just unfair. When NL teams travel, it's great because they add an extra bat and protect their pitchers. When AL teams travel, there are a whole slew of managerial, ethical, and business decisions to be made, not to mention pitchers at a higher risk. No other sport has two sets of rules that must interchange as often as baseball's. The National League should adopt the DH and unify the rules and for any baseball purist out there, I have one thing to say. It's 2011, get with it, making the DH mandatory in the NL is the least of the MLB's worries in this era.