By Jim Caple
Page 2

The last time there was a league this bad, Geena Davis was the catcher and Rosie O'Donnell was the third baseman.

Entering Wednesday, the National League is 70-117 against the American League in interleague play, 47 games under .500. The two 1993 expansion teams, Florida and Colorado, are the only NL teams above .500 in interleague play. Pittsburgh and Arizona have won two games combined against the American League.

Looking at it from the opposite vantage point, the Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, Twins and Mariners are a combined 58-9 against the National League. The Mariners have risen from nine games under .500 when interleague play began to 39-39. The question, of course, is whether the Mariners are really playing well or just playing the National League -- Seattle is 28-37 against the AL and 12-2 against the NL West.

And it's not as if a few AL teams are running up the victories for the rest of the league. Even the Kansas City Royals -- yes, the Royals! -- are 8-5 against the National League. The Royals, mind you, are so bad their interleague opponents should have a bull for a mascot and pseudo sumo wrestling between innings.

Francisco Liriano
David J. Phillip/AP Photo
Francisco Liriano is one of the bright young stars in the American League.

Three AL pitchers have homered in interleague play, or nearly as many times as Barry Bonds has over the same stretch. Baltimore's Kris Benson not only hit a home run in beating his ex-teammates last weekend but homered against Pedro Martinez, prompting this quote from his psycho wife (according to the New York Daily News): "I'm actually feeling generous. I was going to offer to send a case of K-Y Jelly to the Mets' clubhouse. For as many guys that are prepared to use it. Give me a number."

I thought the Cardinals were a pretty decent team, but they've been hammered so badly by the AL that manager Tony La Russa is whining that teams must be stealing signs. Sorry, Tony. The only signs involved are the ones being taped to your back that read: "Kick Me -- I Manage a National League Team."

Interleague play -- or, as the American League calls it, vacation -- isn't the only place where the NL's inferiority is as evident as the red numeral on a Dodgers jersey. Baseball recently announced that the winning league in the All-Star Game will continue to gain home-field advantage in the World Series. Which is to say, the American League will continue to enjoy home-field advantage. The National League hasn't won the All-Star Game since 1996, and it won't win it this year either, unless the league gets to add its score from the Home Run Derby (and maybe not even then).

Not that it matters who gets Game 7 at home in the World Series because the Series never goes that far anymore. The AL has swept half of the past eight World Series, including the past two (and won another in five games).

Why is the National League struggling so much? Age is one reason. There are three big stars in the National League, and two of them (Bonds and Roger Clemens) are in their 40s. The Senior Circuit has never looked so senior. Apparently, the most frequently used performance enhancer in the National League is Viagra.

But mostly, it's because the American League has the better players. There are young stars such as Joe Mauer, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano, as well as established veterans such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Ichiro. National League apologists probably will point out that the Giants traded Liriano to the Twins two years ago. Which is true. He was too good to pitch in the NL.

Liriano likely will pitch in the All-Star Game next month for the American League. Meanwhile, Tom Hanks will lecture the National League that there is no crying in baseball.

Kevin Gunderson
Dave Weaver/AP Photo
Kevin Gunderson gets a little love for his performance in the College World Series.

Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera walked six batters, hit one and threw four wild pitches, which probably was the best line of the week in the majors. But we consider performances in all leagues and at all levels, so this week's award goes to Oregon State closer Kevin Gunderson for his performance Sunday against North Carolina in the College World Series.

Gunderson led the NCAA in saves with 20 this season (including the CWS), but unlike closers in the majors, he actually works for a living. With the Beavers needing to beat North Carolina to force a deciding game on Monday, Gunderson pitched 5 1/3 innings in relief, or 4 1/3 more innings than his big league peers typically throw. He also earned the win in Oregon State's 11-7 victory.

His line:

5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

And how did he follow that up? He pitched the very next night, as well, retiring the final two batters to secure Oregon State's 3-2 victory and the Beavers' first CWS championship.

It's probably safe to say that Atlanta's long string of division titles -- three in the NL West and 11 in the NL East (interrupted by a second-place "finish" in the strike-shortened 1994 season) -- will end this season. Atlanta recently dropped into last place after enduring something it never had during John Smoltz's career -- a 10-game losing streak, the club's first since the start of the 1988 season when Smoltz was still in the minors and the relatively unknown player the Tigers traded to get Doyle Alexander during the 1987 pennant run. The Tigers, meanwhile, have had three 10-game, two 11-game and three 12-game losing streaks in that same span, and the Royals have had 11-, 13- and 19-game losing streaks just in the past year. … Actually, 10-game losing streaks aren't all that uncommon. We found at least 68 10-game losing streaks since 1988 at the essential site, or just more than two per team. … What teams haven't had a 10-game losing streak for even longer than Atlanta hadn't? The Yankees, White Sox, Indians and Cardinals all have evaded 10-game losing streaks since 1988 (technically, the Pirates also outlasted their 1991 and 1992 nemesis by not extending their recent streak to 10 in a row until two days after Atlanta's streak reached 10 losses). The Yankees haven't lost 10 in a row since 1913. And who says we never print anything nice about the Yankees? … Best wishes to Peter Gammons for a very speedy recovery from his aneurysm. Baseball won't seem like baseball until he's back giving us the inside skinny.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for You can reach Jim at Sound off to Page 2 here.