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Chipper: Braves, Mets have tough interleague draws

PITTSBURGH -- Chipper Jones likes interleague games, playing
in ballparks he hasn't seen before and opposing teams the
Atlanta Braves seldom face. What he doesn't like is this kind of
interleague play.

Chipper Jones Jones

With interleague games resuming next weekend, the Braves third
baseman on Sunday sharply criticized the current format that
requires the Braves to meet the Red Sox six times, while the Mets oppose the
Yankees six games, but other NL East teams play less-rugged
schedules.

"I don't think there's any question it's not fair, but I don't
think major league baseball is concerned with fair," Jones said
before Atlanta's 13-2 loss in Pittsburgh. "If you play the top
teams in the American League and everybody else doesn't, it's
pretty unfair."

While the Braves oppose the Red Sox (6 games), Tigers (3), Twins
(3) and Indians (3), and the Mets face the Yankees (6), Tigers (3),
Twins (3) and Athletics (3), the other NL East teams look to have
less-demanding schedules. The Phillies, for example, play three
games each against the losing-record Blue Jays and Royals, plus
three each against the White Sox, Indians and Tigers.

"Is it fun? Yeah. It's fun playing in new cities. It's fun
playing in front of new crowds, it's fun playing new teams," said Jones, who sat out Sunday's game with sore hands from a fall on Friday. "What's not fun is when they're all contenders and your
competition doesn't have to play the same competition you do."

What Jones most dislikes is the recently added wrinkle that
requires teams to play so-called regional rivals in home-and-home
series each season, such as Braves-Red Sox, Yankees-Mets and
Angels-Dodgers.

"It's a factor [in the pennant race]," Jones said. "We play
Boston six times, and they've got the best record in the American
League. We play the top three teams in the toughest division in
baseball [the AL Central]. We, without a doubt, have the toughest
schedule in baseball, bar none. You don't play in our division and
play the interleague schedule we play and not say we don't have the
toughest schedule."

Since interleague play started in 1997, the Braves' 91-75 record
is the sixth best in the majors. The Yankees are the best with a
103-71 record; the Pirates are easily the worst with a 52-84
record. But, at the start, teams from one division played only
those from another division, so each team played roughly the same
schedule.

The regional rivalry concept changed that. This season, the Mets
play interleague games against teams from all three AL divisions.

"If we're going to play the American League Central, everybody
has to play all the teams in the American League Central," Jones
said. "This split-it-up and we have to play our rival in the
American League East stuff, I don't get it. It's unfair for us and
the Mets on a year-in, year-out basis to have to play the Yankees
and Red Sox when other teams don't.

"This is no disrespect to the rest of the teams in the American
League East, because Tampa is up and coming, and in two or three
years, Tampa might be the class of the American League East and the
Florida Marlins are going to have to deal with it," he said.

Interleague play creates a difficult pre-All-Star schedule for
the Braves, who play 12 interleague games in 13 days next month
against the Twins and Indians on the road and the Red Sox and
Tigers at home. After that, they play the Nationals at home, then
go on the road for a 10-day road trip to Florida, Los Angeles and
San Diego before the All-Star break.

"We should do it the way we did it the first five or six years
of interleague play, and that's play every team in the American
League East, every team in West and so on," Jones said.