Over the weekend I had some thoughts about the matchups for the first round of interleague games and wondered how important these "traditional" rivalries are in giving a sense of continuity to the sometimes crazy and haphazard matchups we see.
What caught my attention last weekend was the large number (to my thinking) of unusual matchups and small number of traditional ones that would be repeated next month. To wit, only half of the 14 interleague series were on the schedule in June for a re-match: NY vs. NY, Bos-Phi, Wash-Balt, Cinc-Cleve, Minn-Mil, Oak-SF, and SD-Sea. Since the Ohio teams and Minnesota and Milwaukee are logical rivals geogrqphically, that leaves only two that are only "semi" traditional I guess, but MLB seems to think the best interleague pairing for Seattle is San Diego (which makes some sense as they are the two other West Coast teams) and Boston and Toronto seem to be splitting time as Philadelphia's special team. I have no argument with any of the other matchups, they seem natural. And there are five other matchups that we have come to expect: Chi vs. Chi, Tex-Hstn, LA-Ana, TB-Fla, and StL-KC, the battle for Missouri. The first two of these will actually see two series played in June.
Who is left out of any traditional matchup? The two AL teams on the outside are Detroit and Toronto, although Toronto shares Philadelphia. The four NL teams without a partner are Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Colorado and Arizona. I would suggest making the Detroit-Pittsburgh matchup a traditional home-and-away annual event, call it the 1909 Memorial Two Best Hitters of the Early 20th Century (Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner) Reunion Event and the fans should respond. That would leave Atlanta to alternate with Philadelphia between Toronto and Boston (the Braves began in Boston, of course, and Toronto beat both Atlanta and Philadelphia for its two World Series titles) - and those 1990s-era expansion teams, Colorado and Arizona could become a special NL-only rivalry that wouldn't be that special since they play each other 18 times a year, but that's what happens when you have one league with 16 teams and another with 14.
Does this mean I would change anything ? Well, if every year you had those traditional rivalry games home-and-away, starting in May, then you wouldn't end up with the prospect of games like Colorado-Kansas City, Tampa Bay-Houston, Arizona-Toronto, etc., in May, in the middle of a month that otherwise consists of intraleague games. I don't particularly like interleague games but since it's here it seems like there should be some more structure to the schedule. If every team had its set of six rivalry games and then rotated the other four series, with Arizona and Colordo always playing interleague and the other 14 NL teams getting an equal share of interleague and NL matchups, with divisional breakdowns kept similar as much as possible, the result might be more satisfying. Who knows, if interleague games are that important, then maybe the league with the best record in interleague matchups should get home field advantage, with any tie broken by the result in the All-Star game.