Interleague play causes mass panic

Maybe some day I’ll look in the newspaper and see “Texas 7, San Diego 4” and not do a double take. Maybe it will just take time for the shock to leave.
But for the time being, after one weekend of Major League Baseball’s happy free-for-all — known to some as interleague play — I am not entirely in favor of, nor opposed to the project. At the risk of sounding contradictory, I don’t even think I’m riding the fence.
All of the debate over whether it’s good for baseball (sparks interest, boosts attendance) or bad (hurts tradition, detracts from intrigue of the World Series) means nothing right now. I’m a baseball purist, but my main concern right now is for my sanity.
I’m just plain baffled.
As someone who has followed baseball religiously for the past 15 years, watching Baltimore play Atlanta in June frightens me.
I have no problem conjuring up images of Buddy Biancalana, a weak-hitting shortstop for the Kansas City Royals in the mid-1980s. Seconds later, however, I’m wondering sheepishly if the Twins really are in the Astrodome or if it’s just my imagination.
Interleague play isn’t just a fun little experiment. It’s causing severe dementia.
Perhaps that is what baseball executives want. They’re trying to trick fans into seeing games. Their brainwashing schemes apparently worked well this weekend, as most ballparks saw increased attendance while playing host to interleague invaders.
According to sources, a fan in St. Louis was overheard saying, “So, who are these (Cleveland) Indians, and why are they tromping on our field?”
It was one big car wreck, a bizarre freak show that people couldn’t keep their eyes off of. Even things that had a hint of familiarity didn’t seem right. Consider:
ù The Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, who played in the 1986 World Series, were reunited over the weekend. Since their glorious series 11 years ago, both teams have seen a steady diet of failure. Basically, the chance of seeing the Red Sox and Mets hook up in the Fall Classic sometime soon is pretty slim.
But there they were, playing each other in a regulation series. Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson were long gone. The only thing that made sense was seeing a Boston first baseman — Mo Vaughn in this case — make an error at Shea Stadium.
ù Kansas City and Pittsburgh, two teams that essentially swapped rosters during the off-season, met in a three-game series. At least Pirates-turned-Royals players Jeff King and Jay Bell knew their way around Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium.
But imagine how odd both of them felt, not only returning to their old ballpark in different uniforms, but as representatives of a different league. Stop the madness, folks.
ù Milwaukee visited Chicago for a series over the weekend, renewing one of baseball’s most intense rivalries.
No, wait.
It was the Cubs, not the White Sox, that Milwaukee faced. Instead of heading to the south side, the Brewers played up north at Wrigley Field. I’m sure there was still plenty of hate in the stands, but it was mostly through association.
One series that started Monday is equally bizarre: New York’s finest, Mets vs. Yankees. Enough said.
Who knows what the future holds for interleague play. Right now it’s a limited experiment, and teams only play 15 games a year against clubs from other leagues. It could expand to 30 or 40 games per year, or it could end after its trial run.
An expansion would mean more Montreal vs. Detroit box scores, which could lead in either of two directions. Either baseball fans, including myself, would get used to it quicker, or it would drive everyone completely off the edge.
I’m not in the habit of making bold predictions, but I personally don’t see a smooth transition. Interleague play is not like baseball’s recently expanded playoffs. That change altered baseball, but it didn’t affect the uniforms, names and faces on the field.
If I end up “burned out” in a hospital, it’s a safe bet that the trigger mechanism will be seeing Seattle’s Randy Johnson beat out a drag bunt at Coors Field.
— Michael Rand is the sports editor at the Daily. His column will appear every Monday.