Friday, June 12, 2009

And Now Things Get Interesting

Next week in baseball is one of the most controversial weeks all year: interleague play

Baseball purists argue that interleague play should be reserved solely for the postseason, while others think it adds something to be able to see teams you would not otherwise see throughout the course of the year.

There is, however, one issue that even interleague's staunchest defenders have to reconcile with: AL pitchers hitting in NL parks.

The issue here isn't the embarrassment that might be caused by, say, Mariano Rivera swinging a bat (it's happened); it's the injury risk that comes with running the basepath for pitchers that have not trained to do so.

Think it's a stretch?

That's how Chien Ming Wang lost half a season last season, and he wasn't the only one. Felix Hernandez, who admittedly did hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana, also hurt his ankle in the same game.

The simple solution to this, of course, would be to tell your pitcher to, at all costs, avoid swinging the bat, but the last thing you want is to make an automatic out that much more automatic

For the Yankees, the issue this year is magnified as they play nine straight games in NL parks. Nine.

Not only is that nine straight games of watching a pitcher bat (though CC isn't an automatic out, based on what he did last year), it's nine straight games without either the bat of Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon. While Matsui would seem the more likely bat to sit, it's hard to justify the idea that he will sit for nine games in a row, especially if he hits well over the weekend.

This could end up being the kicker for Joe Girardi. If he manages to figure out a lineup each day that does a decent job and the Yankees go, say, 6-3 over the stretch (okay, with the Nats in there, let's make it 7-2), some of his critics will find it harder to complain. If, however, the Yankees falter (and dude, they're playing the Nats), all bets may be off.