- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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It may be the fiercest rivalry in baseball history, with the possible exception of Peter Gammons and Bobby V.
The Yankees and Red Sox? The Giants and Dodgers? The Cubs and Cardinals? Nah, I'm talking about the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres, a rivalry that extends all the way back to the late '90s.
"You're asking me for the ugliest moment in the Padres-Mariners rivalry?'' Seattle pitching coach Bryan Price joked. "For a question like that, you're going to have to call me at least a week in advance.''
When baseball started scheduling home-and-home series between designated interleague "rivals,'' it matched the Yankees and the Mets, the Cubs and the White Sox and ... the Mariners and the Padres, who are located more than a thousand miles apart, had never played each other until interleague play began and are such hated rivals that they contentedly share the same spring training facility in Peoria, Ari.
How bad is the blood between these two teams? Let's see. There's the annual shared Fanfest day in spring training when the Mariners and the Padres hold their workouts on the same field in Peoria. "One time they went first and we had to go second,'' Price said. "The audacity of those guys. For them to think we should go second.''
Them's fightin' words, no doubt about it.
And that isn't all. There also was the game when ... ummmmmm, errr ... well, let me think about that some more.
OK, there was the time the Swinging Friar mascot and the Mariners Moose exchanged some very mean glares. Or at least, I think they exchanged mean glares. It was hard to tell given that they wear giant costumed heads with big goofy grins.
"Rumor has it that the Swinging Friar once exchanged some verbal jousts with the Moose, trying to goad him into doing something he doesn't want to do,'' Price said. "You can only push the Moose so far before he snaps. And then it gets ugly.''
Are we being a little ridiculous? Perhaps. But not as ridiculous as the interleague schedule with its forced interleague rivalries. They're so ridiculous that I actually find myself agreeing with -- gasp! -- George Steinbrenner. Or at least, partially agreeing. Interleague play doesn't handicap the Yankees -- not when they get six games against the Mets -- but it does ruin the integrity of the schedule.
Just look at the AL West. The Mariners play six games against the "rival'' Padres, who are the worst team in the National League, while the Athletics play six against the first-place Giants and the Angels play six against the second-place Dodgers. As Steinbrenner might say: How is that right?
"Everything is cyclical,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Everyone talks about the Padres, and maybe they're struggling right now but did people want to play them in 1998? It's cyclical and at some point it all comes around.
"I don't think it's a major impact. If you're a good club, you'll work your way through a tough schedule. If you look at us last year, I think we probably had the toughest schedule of anyone and we played through it. If you play at a high enough level, you'll be able to overcome it.''
That's all very true. The game is cyclical. And there will be a season when the Mariners complain about playing the Padres. But teams should not have schedules so different from their rivals than that they must be "overcome.'' And the bottom line is this. Whether it is the Mariners or Yankees or Astros who benefits in any particular season, in every year division rivals will play significantly different schedules because of designated rivals and interleague play.
The AL East is supposed to be matched against the NL Central this year, but the Red Sox are playing six games against NL East teams. They and the Yankees play only six interleague games against common opponents.
How is any of that right? If the entire point of an unbalanced schedule is to make the division races more meaningful, don't you render them less meaningful by having the division rivals play different schedules?
Interleague play is of questionable value -- the low attendance figures from the past two weeks are a good indication that fans are bored by the idea -- but if baseball insists on continuing it, teams in the same division must share the same schedules as much as possible. At the very least, cut the designated rivals back to one series per summer. It may rob fans of three Padres-Mariners games, but that's the sacrifice we all must make for the benefit of the game.
In the meantime, the Mariners and Padres must work on an appropriate trophy for the winner of their season series. You know, like the Old Oaken Bucket or Paul Bunyan's Axe or the Floyd of Rosedale.
"Maybe it should have something to do with Orca whales, because we have Orcas up here and they have them at SeaWorld. ... '' Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said. "Maybe we could have Free Willy and move him back and forth.''
Boxscore line of the week
The Yankees had gone 45 years without getting no-hit, which not only was the longest streak in baseball, it was so long that the Yankees evidently determined that it was against the rules for them to be no-hit. After all, following Houston's six-pitcher no-hitter last Wednesday, the Yankees gave zero credit to the Astros for this amazing turn of events.
"This is one of the worst games I've ever been involved in,'' manager Joe Torre told reporters. "It was a total, inexcusable performance. ... Whatever kind of history it was, it was terrible.''
"It should be embarrassing,'' Derek Jeter said. "If you're not embarrassed, something's wrong with you.''
"It was awful,'' Jorge Posada said.
Ummmm, guys. Maybe it wasn't all Yankees ineptitude. Maybe those Astros pitchers had something to do with it. And rather than focus on the negative, perhaps New York should be proud that they're so good it took six pitchers to no-hit them.
Not that Steinbrenner was seeing that way, complaining that "their manager kind of rubbed it in on our guys, one reliever after another.''
Well, we're here to salute the Astros with this week's award. The question is, when six pitchers combine on a no-hitter, who do you single out? In this case, Octavio Dotel, who had the most extraordinary performance on an extraordinary night. He pitched one inning and still struck out four batters thanks to a dropped third strike. His line:
1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Lie, damn lies and statistics
Congratulations to Roger Clemens for joining the exclusive 300-Win Club and the even more exclusive 4,000-Strikeout Club in the same game. But he's wrong on which cap he should wear on his Hall of Fame plaque. It speaks more of animosity between Clemens and one former Boston executive than career accomplishments. Those two world championships with the Yankees are nice, but the Rocket pitched 15 seasons and won 223 games and five Cy Young Awards before he ever reached New York. Just as it overruled Gary Carter's desire to wear a Mets cap, the Hall of Fame should have Clemens go in wearing a Red Sox cap, his team for 13 big-league seasons. ... There were 107 no-hitters thrown between the Yankees no-hitters, including 10 against the Giants. ... With his home run Monday night, John Olerud joined Dave Winfield as the only players since the draft started in 1965 to reach 2,000 hits without ever playing a day in the minor leagues. ... Carlos Delgado already has 76 RBI. The Tigers entire starting lineup Sunday had 120.
From left field
After two years and three teams, Ted Williams' son, John Henry, finally got his first professional hit over the weekend at age 34. But what's the best father-son combination in baseball history? Is it the Bonds or the Griffey's? Or the multi-generational Boone's and Bell's?
"It's a very vague question,'' Bret Boone said, "but all I'll say is that I'm very proud of my family. And we'll see where we stand after I'm done and Aaron is done. And after my son is done.''
Which is the best father-son combination in baseball history? Consider these candidates:
"No corked bats found in Iraq.''
-- headline on the IronicTimes.com news ticker
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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