Originally created 05/29/03

Fantasy Baseball: Interleague play adds intrigue



As interleague play begins Tuesday, fantasy baseball owners can reflect on how it has affected their game since 1997 and can tailor their lineups to account for the trends that have developed.

When it began six years ago, interleague play was just what baseball needed to breathe life into a sport still wallowing in the mire created by the strike that caused cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

Natural rivalries were born, and fantasy teams were suddenly presented with a whole new wave of matchups and possibilities.

Some of those instant classics include the "Subway Series" (New York Yankees vs. New York Mets - which culminated with the 2000 World Series); the "Windy City Showdown" (Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs); the "Battle of Compton" (Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Anaheim Angels); the "Canadian Confrontation" (Montreal Expos vs. Toronto Blue Jays); and, for those less concerned with talent, the "Sunshine State Debacle" (Florida Marlins vs. Tampa Bay Devil Rays).

National or American League-only fantasy leagues were offered a taste of this integrated schedule, and many were hooked enough to include both in the next season's draft.

Critics of interleague play had only one plausible argument - that the World Series would somehow be tainted by the possibility that the two teams had faced one another during the regular season.

Perhaps it was the commissioners of fantasy leagues who remained single-league who waved that banner. For those of you caught up in that web, enjoy laboring through another season with a roster so deep that staff aces Jim Parque and Mike Maroth are lit up like Christmas trees every fifth day.

The rest of us will settle for watching our favorite players and teams square off against opponents they once would only encounter in spring training or in the Fall Classic, during baseball's Dark Ages.

Here are a few items for fantasy owners to watch for as the seventh edition of interleague play commences next week:

  • The defending World Series champion Angels travel to Puerto Rico to face Les Expos, who are 19-9 at home, including 6-4 in San Juan. Bench Angels starters Kevin Appier, Aaron Sele and Ramon Ortiz, if possible, and expect big weeks from Expos Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Vidro.
  • Detroit visits San Diego for a rematch of the 1984 World Series. Tigers manager Alan Trammell and coach Kirk Gibson, who both played in the 1984 series, must now find a way to energize an anemic offense (.213 average). Both pitching staffs are just as bad or worse, so look for hitters such as Dmitri Young and Carlos Pena of the Tigers and Ryan Klesko of the Padres (if he is recovered from an ankle sprain) to post strong numbers.
  • Atlanta faces Texas for the first time Tuesday, and both teams are riding hot streaks. Avoid Rangers starters, and expect Chipper Jones and Greg Maddux to break out of recent slumps. Hank Blalock looks like the real deal for Texas, and Mark Teixeira is not far behind him.
  • WHO'S HOT OF Jose Guillen, Reds (10 HR, 28 RBI, .341). Guillen has found new life in Cincinnati, after failing to meet expectations in Pittsburgh, Arizona and Tampa Bay. The presence of four productive outfielders (Guillen, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey and Austin Kearns) is a good problem for the Reds to have.

    WHO'S NOT P Elmer Dessens, Diamondbacks (4-4, 5.03 ERA). Dessens, whose ERA is a full two runs higher than last year's 3.03 with Cincinnati, must rebound for the Diamondbacks to survive the absence of Randy Johnson.

    ROOKIE WATCH Mark Teixeira, Rangers (5 HR, 23 RBI). The former Georgia Tech star and first-round draft pick, who has three home runs and 12 RBI in 25 at-bats has come alive after a slow start.

    Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106.