Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Beauty And Brokenness Of Interleague Play

The Minnesota Twins are in the midst of interleague play for the second time this season. Instead of cramming all of the fun into a designated week or two over the summer, Major League Baseball reconstructed the scheduled to allow American and National League teams to clash throughout the season. As Minnesota has now traveled and hosted National League teams, we have seen both the beauty and brokenness of the tradition.

As the Twins traveled to Pittsburgh in May, both Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey were subjected to the silliness that is a league without a DH. Nolasco faired worse flailing through three different at bats on route to a three strikeout game, while Pelfrey totaled two base hits raising his career average to a paltry .105.

After welcoming the Brewers to Target Field, it was again in St. Louis that Twins pitchers would be forced to brandish a bat. This time it was Trevor May and Kyle Gibson at the plate. The pair combined to go 1-3 (the hit being Gibson's) with a strikeout (being May's). While first year manager Paul Molitor got creative and batted his pitchers 8th this time around, the offensive production from the position remained a black hole.

On the flip side, fans at Target Field have and will get to see the beauty of a National League team playing with the designated hitter. The Cardinals were able to use slugger and everyday shortstop Jhonny Peralta as their designated hitter for the day. The bigger prize for both National League lovers and Twins fans is yet to come however.

Over the weekend, the Twins will play host to the Chicago Cubs. Never mind the parallels that connect the Twins and Cubs as two franchises trending in very similar directions, but the Cubs bring plenty of intrigue on their own. Already promoted this season, top prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will be on full display in front of Target Field. On top of that, and because of the DH, Twins fans will get an early glimpse at another phenom, Kyle Schwarber.

During the same week that Byron Buxton was promoted by the Twins, Chicago decided to bring Schwarber up from Double-A Tennessee in order to serve as their designated bat through interleague play. Schwarber trails Twins prospect Adam Brett Walker in minor league home runs with 13, but he brings a .320/.438/.579 power stick to the show. Although Theo Epstein has insisted that the Cubs will send him packing after the tour is over, it is the DH that makes it all possible.

Rather than digress to far into why the DH should be universally accepted (and it should) I will instead point you to this article. Whether for or against the designated hitter, the argument seems clear. A flailing pitcher who may provide a manager with some tougher decisions is still less beneficial for the sport than a player who can accomplish the set goal at the plate, to hit.

Minnesota will welcome the Cubs over the weekend, and then head to Milwaukee and Cincinnati the following week before wrapping up interleague action. When the dust settles though, it will be hard to argue that the clash with the NL Central in 2015 wasn't for the betterment of the season, and that interleague play didn't provide some fun.

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