Plot out-of-region games on next interleague map

On Baseball

June 06, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

What will interleague play look like in the 21st century?

Nobody really knows.

The current system -- which matches teams in the parallel geographical division -- probably will stay in place for the duration of the current labor agreement with the players, but could give way after the 2000 season to a system that allows for more varied interleague competition.

That was the way it was originally envisioned. The owners had hoped that interleague play would enhance regional rivalries and give more fans the opportunity to see the sport's greatest stars.

The current system does that to a limited extent. Ken Griffey visited San Diego this weekend, but he won't be visiting Atlanta or his hometown of Cincinnati unless he jumps to the National League or the owners come up with a different approach to interleague play.

Some owners, particularly some of those from the two central divisions, would like to rotate the big teams and the big stars because they have fewer compelling interleague rivalries within the region. The clubs in the Eastern divisions, however, probably would be happy to keep the current system, because of the concentration of popular big-market teams on the East Coast.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, whose sypathies figure to be in middle America, can be expected to find some middle ground. Look for a plan that preserves the regional competition and also includes a limited number of out-of-region interleague games.

That would require an expansion of interleague play to 30 games and -- finally -- a heavily imbalanced schedule with increased competition inside each division (18 head-to-head games against each divisional opponent). It also would require another realignment to create six five-team divisions.

If interleague play is here to stay, that's the form it probably will take. Look for Selig to turn up the volume on realignment this winter as a prequel to the coming interleague revolution.

Mutiny brewing?

The Anaheim Angels were preparing to sign manager Terry Collins to a contract extension last week, but his contract status was put on hold when some unidentified players reportedly approached general manager Bill Bavasi to complain about Collins' managerial style.

The inmates running the asylum?

The club has been ravaged by injuries and still has managed to stay close enough to .500 to remain viable in the American League West, but hard-driving Collins apparently has ruffled some feathers in the clubhouse along the way.

He's more drill sergeant than touchy-feeling father figure, but he has a reputation for getting the most out of his players. The Angels could do a lot worse.

A sportswriter's dream

Los Angeles Times national baseball writer Ross Newhan is now faced with a serious conflict of interest, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

His son, David Newhan, was called up by the Padres on Friday.

The young second base prospect, who played college ball at both Georgia Tech and Pepperdine, was on a tear at Triple-A Las Vegas when he got the news late Thursday. He is expected to back up regular second baseman Quilvio Veras and could get some playing time if Veras continues to have injury problems.

Korean closer?

Former Oriole Gregg Olson (seven saves) still is the primary closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he's facing some real competition from Korean rookie Byung-Hyun Kim, who pitched a perfect ninth inning to record a save in his major-league debut last weekend.

Kim, who signed a four-year contract with the Diamondbacks on Feb. 19, became only the third Korean national to play in the major leagues and became only the fourth player in the 1990s to record a save in his first major-league appearance. The others were Darrin Ebert (Atlanta, 1999), Jeff Bronkey (Texas, 1993) and Mark Wohlers (Atlanta, 1991).

Kim blew his next save opportunity when he gave up a three-run homer in the ninth inning of Monday night's game, but that didn't change Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter's high opinion of him.

Finley in flight

Outfielder Steve Finley, another one of the three former Orioles playing for the Diamondbacks (David Dellucci is the other), got off to a slow start after signing a big free-agent contract to jump from the pennant-winning Padres, but he has bounced back in a big way.

Finley entered the weekend with 13 hits and 15 RBIs in a four-game span. He had two home runs and five RBIs last Sunday against the New York Mets, added two homers and six RBIs on Tuesday against the Expos and had four extra-base hits -- three doubles and a triple -- in a four-RBI performance on Wednesday. He had a home run and three RBIs Friday.

That gave him 38 RBIs in the last 24 games and boosted his season total to 49 going into last night, enough to move him into second place in the National League. So, who said that the Diamondbacks paid him too much?

Draft ruminations

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