Major League Baseball revealed their game schedule for the 2013 season Wednesday afternoon. And those in charge wasted little time in introducing stark changes to the game as we knew it.
The Cincinnati Reds, for year and years and year, were the traditional first game started every single season. The Reds lost that honor over a decade ago, but MLB still allows them to open at home each year. What better way to introduce full-season interleague play, then, than at Cincinnati’s Great America Ballpark, where the Reds will play host to the Angles to start the season.
Of course, Houston’s shift to the American League means that for the first time, all six divisions will have exactly five teams each. This will allow for each divisional opponent to play each other 19 times. In years past, divisional rivals would typically play 18 games against one another, but it was anything but uniform in number. Sometimes it would work out to 19 games in a given year and sometimes, like has been the case in the NL Central, two teams would play each other only 15 times. If nothing else, this re-alignment should quiet some of the discord over the unbalanced schedule.
There were a couple big changes announced concerning interleague play. Not only will there be at least one interleague series taking place each day of the season, but the total number of interleague games per team has risen from 16 to 20 for 2013. Instead of a pair of two-week blocks during the season, the games will obviously be much more spread out.
What this means, however, is that American League pitchers will be forced to take batting practice virtually all season long in preparation for NL foes and it will forced AL managers to play without the DH for an extra couple of games each year. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it is the first step toward a universal designated hitter, at least as far as I can tell. Bud Selig knew his interleague play idea had begun to fizzle and would likely be halted at some point in the near future. To protect it, he forced the hand of new Astros owner Jim Crane, telling him that approval of his bid to buy the club hinged on Crane’s acceptance of a move to the Junior Circuit. Crane accepted, of course, and now there will be an odd number of teams in each league, which forces full-time interleague play.
In 2013, you will hear AL clubs whine about not getting to use a key member of their lineup for 10 games per year because the rules in those games preclude them from doing so. You can call them out for it, but the thing is that they’re right. When the American and National League met each other only during the All-Star Game and World Series each year, the different rules the two leagues used was a novelty. When interleague play began, the DH rule became a bit more cumbersome. Now that interleague play will take place year-round, the issue will become bigger and bigger.
We’ll see 20 games of interleague for each club next season, but what about after that? Will that number increase in 2014? And if so, by how much? Can we expect each team will play 24 interleague games in 2014? Each time that number gets larger, a $15 million per year DH is forced to sit on the bench for an additional couple of games. Eventaully, there will have to either be a universal DH, or they’ll have to eliminate the role altogether, and I see no way the Player’s Union would allow the elimination of 15 big league jobs. One way or another, change to the DH rule is coming.