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Archive for Saturday, June 23, 2001

Switch planned for interleague play

Preliminary schedule pairs AL Central teams with NL East

June 23, 2001

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Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees renew an old rivalry at Dodger Stadium. A-Rod gets his whacks at Wrigley Field. Todd Helton takes aim at the Green Monster.

It's all in the plans for next season.

After several years of promises, interleague play will have a completely new look in 2002, according to the preliminary schedule confirmed by sources in major league baseball who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The pairings have been switched around, and here's how it's tentatively set: AL East vs. NL West, AL Central vs. NL East and AL West vs. NL Central.

Barry Bonds, if he stays with the San Francisco Giants, would get to swing for the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium for the first time.

"At least it's something different," Bonds said. "It's not the same teams."

When interleague play began in 1997, baseball said it intended to rotate the East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West format.

But other than minor tinkering Houston and Texas finally met this year, for example the matchups have stayed the same.

That would be totally different under the proposed schedule, which baseball must submit by July 1 to the players' union. The union must give its approval before schedules become final, but they are rarely altered significantly.

Of course, the 2002 plan could still change. Even so, Arizona first baseman Mark Grace was thrilled to hear the Diamondbacks were for now headed to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park next year.

"I love it. I think it's great. I'm a historian. Because of interleague play, I got to play in Tiger Stadium, the old-old Tiger Stadium. The two ballparks I've never played in are Boston and Yankee Stadium," he said.

"I'll go out and be like a little geek. I'll check out the monuments and everything. It'll be fun," he said. "I've been to New York but never to the city of Boston and never to Yankee Stadium."

Helton was looking forward to Colorado's visit to Fenway, too.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," the majors' RBI leader said, raising his eyebrows. "If that does pull through, I'll be very excited to go there."

The Yankees played a couple of exhibition games at Dodger Stadium before opening day in 1999, and Jeter homered.

The Yankees and Dodgers have a long history, dating back to their Subway Series days in New York and going up to their more recent World Series matchups in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

"That will be nice. We used to have a rivalry with them, so that will be kind of cool. It will be great to play them in games that matter," Jeter said.

Moments after hearing about the proposed schedule, Jeter turned to teammate Tino Martinez and said, "Hey, we're going to L.A. next year."

The Boston Red Sox and Pedro Martinez, who began his career with Los Angeles, also are supposed to play at Dodger Stadium next season.

Among the other matchups: Alex Rodriguez and the Texas Rangers would visit Wrigley Field, as would Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners; and Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs would play at Anaheim.

The Atlanta Braves would play at the Metrodome for the first time since the classic Game Seven of the 1991 World Series, and Cleveland would visit Florida in a rematch of the 1997 World Series.

Because of his retirement at the end of the season, Cal Ripken will miss Baltimore's new-style West Coast swing. The Orioles are scheduled to play at Coors Field in Denver, Bank One Ballpark in Arizona and Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.

As part of the 2002 plan, popular six-game series such as Cubs-White Sox and Giants-Athletics would be cut to three games for logistical reasons. The Mets and Yankees also would play just three times, on June 28-30 at Yankee Stadium.

Bonds was simply glad to hear that the interleague matchups would be switched around.

"They need to, to keep the interest in it," he said.

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He's fine so far: Remember when the Boston Red Sox fined Carl Everett $97,222 during spring training? The season is nearly halfway over and the team hasn't collected a penny.

The players' association filed a grievance seeking to overturn the penalty, the Red Sox didn't deduct any money from the outfielder's paychecks and the commissioner's office and the union haven't even scheduled a hearing before arbitrator Shaym Das.

Boston fined Everett, who makes $7 million this year, and suspended him from a spring training game after he failed to take a team bus to an exhibition game in Tampa. Everett then was sent home by manager Jimy Williams and skipped practice the next day.

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A foul mood: Don't even try telling Montreal's Mark Smith that his disputed home run at Yankee Stadium the one that even a major league umpiring official said was foul should not have counted.

"It was a fair ball, I don't care what anybody says," the Expos outfielder said. "People can joke about it all they want. But it was a fair ball, I'm positive."

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