SBJ/June 22 - 28, 1998/No Topic Name

Owners pledge to cut back on two-game sets

Major League Baseball owners, pleased with results from the first round of interleague play this season, insist they'll be able to produce future interleague schedules that will pass the muster of the Players Association.

The owners have until July 1 to present the players' union with a 1999 schedule. The interleague portion requires the players' approval.

Owners came away from their quarterly meetings in Seattle earlier this month optimistic that the version they'll deliver will address the union's chief concern about interleague play: the fact that it has created too many two-game series.

Union leaders have made it clear all season that they won't accept another schedule like the one they're currently using, which is heavy on short series and quick travel turnaround.

"The [schedule] we're talking about has a lot less two-game series," said Bud Selig, chairman of baseball's Executive Council and owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The two-game series was unavoidable under the current format, which has each club visiting all the other cities in its league twice. Fitting that many visits into a six-month span means splitting the sport's traditional, four-game stays into pairs of two-gamers.

The way that MLB is most likely to address it: reducing the number of games teams play against certain far-flung opponents.

"We've expanded to 30 teams; we have interleague play; we have three divisions and a wild card," said Selig, who led the forces behind all three changes. "We've piled a lot of things on. So the schedule ...is inflexible. It causes a lot of problems. To solve those problems, we need some [more] realignment."

That's the long-term solution. Until then, something must be done to placate the union and keep interleague play alive.

Though attendance at this year's first go-around was down 3,000 per game compared to last year's interleague sets, play between the National and American leagues continued to draw better than other games. The 84 interleague games attracted 30,476, a 15.2 percent increase over the average season attendance heading into interleague play (26,446).

Selig continues to preach the benefits of realignment and interleague play at every opportunity.

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Milwaukee Brewers, MLB

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