Baseball needs more drama: Lack of rivalry kills interest

Another year, another World Series I’m hard-pressed to care about.

Baseball, in all of its tradition-fostered glory, has been struggling of late to attract national demand in the same way it did back in the old days.

The reasons for baseball’s national demise have been theorized, while the solutions to these problems have been roadblocked by an unreasonable need for baseball to remain the same game it was when Babe Ruth played.

The culprit for baseball’s lack of World Series hype this year is fairly simple — interleague play. That is, the lack thereof during the actual season.

The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are two great baseball teams, both deserving of their spots in the World Series. But it’s hard to care about which team deserves to be on top of the major-league ranks unless you’re a fan of either team.

For a preview of this series, we can look back to … well, nowhere. The teams failed to face off in the meandering 162-game regular season, and haven’t played since 2004. That, in professional sports today, is a travesty. Major League Baseball should be ashamed that two franchises can go that long without playing each other, yet be considered in the same organization.

Interleague play was instituted in 1997, 33 years after the United States’ own separate-but-equal laws were repealed. Simply put, the tradition that baseball hangs its cap on (because baseball is the sport most likely to refer to a hat as a cap) is one of many elements alienating the game from other, more successful professional sports today.

The 2011 Super Bowl generated lots of excitement as the Pittsburgh Steelers (the team with the most Super Bowls) faced the Green Bay Packers (the team with the most NFL Championships) in a rematch of a thrilling last-second Steelers’ victory from the year before. History and current relevance both present.

In the NBA, the greatest show on hardwood in the Miami Heat faced the Dallas Mavericks, an old-fashioned, team-oriented crew anchored by one star as opposed to three. To sweeten the pot, it was a rematch of when a less star-studded Heat team beat Dallas in the ‘06 finals. Stardom and vengeance both present.

This year’s World Series involves two teams of serious indifference. They haven’t played in seven seasons and possess between them one household name in Albert Pujols. The World Series this year is an irrelevant matchup with no backstory and little star power.

It’s not “nifty” or “cool” that the stars are aligning for the first time in over half a decade to allow these two teams to play for such high stakes — it’s boring. The storylines reside within the teams themselves, and even as far as that goes, they aren’t spectacular. Will the Rangers lose their second consecutive World Series? Maybe. Will St. Louis keep Albert Pujols? Who knows?

All of a sudden, a team that has spent years out of sight and out of mind is the only thing standing between you and a page in baseball history. One of the less dramatic pages, out of the thousands that exist.

Last year, the Rangers faced a similar situation when they lost to the scarcely encountered San Francisco Giants in five games. The MLB hasn’t had a seven-game World Series since 2002, and has had a trend of anticlimactic finales that include a Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in 2007 that I had to look up, a White Sox sweep of the Astros, capping a postseason that was seriously more interesting on the league-championship-series level, and more sort-of-exciting matchups that had the media stretching for storylines.

Do these teams feel awkward wanting to beat each other? Maybe they should spend some time before the game to get to know each other. They could discover each other’s flaws and shortcomings, so as to have some sort of reason to want to play. Maybe Major League Baseball should mandate a three-game speed-dating series to acclimate the teams to one another and maybe even build a twinge of animosity in the process. The bulletin-board material in this series is the other franchise’s Wikipedia page.

The two teams have played each other the least out of any two teams in baseball. They tie in fewest number of games played with the White Sox-Mets, who, if they played a World Series against one another, would at the very least have a Chicago-New York rivalry storyline to build interest.

Other than the color red being present in their uniforms, I see nothing in common between the two teams.

Maybe both teams kinda liked Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Maybe this will mark the beginning of an epic and occasional rivalry.

If any of that happens, let me know. I’ll be paying as little attention to these teams as, over the last seven years, they have to each other.

_Eliot is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EliotTweet._