MLB needs interleague hiatus

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I had mixed feelings about interleague play when Major League Baseball introduced it in 1997. Until then, hard as it might be to remember, the National League and American League never met except in the World Series and the All-Star Game.

On one hand, I'm not a fan of anything that detracts from the World Series, which is the crown jewel of baseball.

On the other hand, interleague play has provided an opportunity for fans of American League teams to see a player like Barry Bonds. And fans of National League teams have been able to see some of those great Yankee championship squads, like the 1998 team that won 114 regular-season games. That's been a positive of the concept.

But now it's time for a change. At first, interleague play fostered excitement because it hadn't been done before. But now fans and players are used to it, and it's become stale.

Even the marquee matchups aren't as big a deal as they used to be. This is evident in the Bay Area, where I live -- the Oakland Athletics-San Francisco Giants series isn't as exciting as it once was. And the same is true for the New York Yankees-New York Mets series on the East Coast. This is the eighth year of interleague play, and the novelty has worn off.

So I'd like to see MLB take a hiatus from interleague play for three years. Stop playing interleague games for three years, and then three years from now resume interleague play for three years. Such a three-year cycle would bring back the excitement of interleague competition.

When interleague play is in effect, some additional changes are needed. I'm in favor of only a few interleague series each year, so every team wouldn't be involved. The marquee matchups should stay, but too many other matchups aren't fun for the fans. How much interest was there in the Montreal Expos-Kansas City Royals series this year?

My solution would be to forget the city and area rivalries for a while. I believe that many fans are tired of seeing Mets-Yankees.

Instead, send marquee teams like the Yankees to places where they're not normally seen. For instance, this weekend the Yankees play a three-game series at the Los Angeles Dodgers. That's a perfect matchup. Send the Giants and Barry Bonds to an area and a venue where they normally wouldn't play (maybe to Boston to face the Red Sox).

Of course, the other problem with interleague play is that it leads to an unbalanced and unfair schedule in terms of the division races. In the NL West this weekend, the first-place Dodgers are playing the Yankees (who have the best record in baseball), and the Giants (1½ back) are playing the tough Red Sox. But the San Diego Padres (one back) are playing the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.

The inequity of playing those different opponents could easily influence the outcome of the NL West race. For example, the Giants don't have to face the Yankees this year, but they do play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. If you're trying to win a division race, who would you rather play -- the Devil Rays or the Yankees?

Interleague play also means there are fewer games between key division rivals. Two NL Central rivals, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, don't play each other in August or September this year.

I hope commissioner Bud Selig considers taking a break from interleague play, because absence might make the fans' hearts grow fonder.

An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76 (the Reds won the World Series both years). He contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.