Siberian Baseball

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Interleague Edition - Does Chipper have a point?

So, Chipper Jones was thinking out loud at the end of the week, where he complained pretty openly about having to face the Red Sox as the Braves' official interleague "rival."

While other teams gets to face perpetual patsies, the Braves are forced to play Boston, as neither team has a local AL team to square off against. Granted, the Mets draw the Yankees, but I think his point rested more with the Marlins/Devil Rays and Nationals/Orioles games this weekend.

For as much fun as Cubs/White Sox, Giants/A's and Mets/Yankees are, you also have Rockies/Royals, Padres/Mariners and Phillies/Blue Jays which don't have much inherent venom.

Whether it's the scope of the rivalry - or lack thereof - or the talent levels involved, I think Jones has at least a respectable point.

No matter how awful the Cubs are, the Sox aren't guaranteed a victory when the teams meet up, where there can be problems involved even when the Northsiders are in a tailspin. Compare that with a team like the Twins who see the Brewers or other match ups that can be pretty useless on paper.

I think on the whole, most of these matchups meet somewhere in the middle, with the averages working themselves out over the course of five or more seasons, but in the hot years when teams like the Yanks or Red Sox are steamrolling ahead, I can see where the frustration can set in.

Honestly, it seems like most of the perpetual cellar dwellers have more regional rivalries, where the impact isn't as great. Still, it makes things a little trickier for MLB to defend with this set of games, where the competition is unequal and division teams aren't facing the same opponents.

Overal, though, I think interleague is good for baseball as it hangs some real numbers on these games and helps to stoke casual fan interest. Well, unless you're in Colorado or Kansas City.

* The Twins were on pace to sweep the Brewers this afternoon - Milwaukee has since tied the game through the sixth inning - which should help slow the bleeding for Minnesota's fans. It's been strange to hear the talk radio callers demanding trades, asking for rash AAA call-ups and dusting off the "Get Joe Mauer out from behind the plate" bandwagon.

I've been impressed by the front office response on the whole, with GM Terry Ryan owning up to the team's poor performance, allowing that they've had hitting and pitching, just not enough and not when they needed it, but also criticizing bad fielding and poor baserunning decisions.

Through all of it, I seem to be one of the only people who questions why returning Rondell White, Lew Ford and other secondary players is being seen as the cure for the team's ills.

They lack a solid rotation - as they have since the off-season - and have streaky batters, with career years in 2006 from players like Nick Punto being seen as breakthrough seasons and not statistical flukes.

While Twins fans only have to look back as far as last year to see a shaky start that eventually grew into a postseason visit, I doubt such a turn-around is possible two years in a row. Eventually, the Twins might have to pay to field a competitive team.

In the meantime, we'll wait out the calls to trade Johan Santana to try and shore up the team with younger ballplayers.

* Worth watching as the Yankees prepare to shake things up is a rumor that they might try to void Jason Giambi's deal if he comes out and admits he took performance-enhancing substances before he signed with New York.

Despite the drama, Giambi being cut loose would have to earn him some serious attention in the AL.

* ESPN is also reporting that Kerry Wood will test out his arm Monday. Expect news of a season-ending trip to the DL on Wednesday or early Thursday.

The strange thing is that for as much ink as Wood and Mark Prior have picked up, Fox ran stats during the game Saturday that compared the numbers for that duo and for their replacements - Jason marquis and Ted Lily - that showed the new arms aren't that different from the Wonder Twins' 2003 numbers to this point.


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