- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

One of Bud Selig’s favorite and worst ideas enters its 10th season this week.

Interleague play returns Friday, and the novelty has worn off — just like it has with that other Selig-era favorite: artificially enhanced players.

The anticipated series are the usual ones. The New York teams play each other. So do the Chicago teams, the Los Angeles teams and the Bay Area teams. And that’s right, for the first time, the Baltimore Orioles visit the Washington Nationals.

At least Nationals fans are likely to see their team on television.

But wait, there’s more. You also will receive Pittsburgh at Cleveland, Toronto at Colorado and in a matchup of the two teams Sparky Anderson managed, Cincinnati at Detroit.

Try to contain your excitement.

Interleague play sounded like a good idea in 1997.

That’s the same year Michael Jackson became a parent, Notorious B.I.G. was killed and working for a dot-com seemed like a good idea.

Our innocence was lost in more ways than one.

Interleague play has ruined the All-Star Game and hurt the World Series. It’s still unclear the effect it has had on the environment.

The All-Star Game already was failing. Players changed teams and leagues so often that they no longer wanted to prove which one was better. Interleague play simply sped the game’s demise.

The World Series isn’t nearly as diminished. But in 2000, when the Yankees and Mets finally played each other for the first time in the World Series, it wasn’t as special as it should have been.

The two teams already had played each other that season and in the three previous seasons.

For most of baseball’s history, there were distinct differences between the two leagues.

The National League integrated first and faster than the American League. That’s why they dominated the All-Star Game from the 1950s through the 1970s.

The National League was a pitcher’s league. The American League was a hitter’s league, in part because of the designated hitter.

The American League had George Steinbrenner. The National League had Marge Schott.

Interleague play used to be something all of the other sports did — not baseball.

Baseball was staid, pastoral, not gimmicky, and that suited baseball just fine. As George Carlin said, it was played in a park, and the object was to go home.

Now baseball begs to be noticed, to be relevant among hundreds of channels, none of which bring you the Nationals.

Baseball is a whole weekend of the Atlanta Braves at the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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