COMMENTARY | Perhaps it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to Philadelphia Phillies' fans to see Roy Halladay and friends getting pounded by the Cleveland Indians on Monday night. There was something of a team tradition at work.
The Phillies have been lousy at interleague play pretty much since it began in 1997.
Counting Monday's 14-2 debacle, the Phillies are now 121-148 overall against the American League. That's a paltry .450 winning percentage. By comparison, the Phils haven't finished a full season with a percentage lower than that since 2000, when current Indians manager Terry Francona piloted them to a .401 finish and eventually lost his job.
According to the Phillies' media guide, in 16 seasons of interleague play entering 2013, the Phillies had won more games than they lost just six times. In 2008, the year the Phils won the World Series, they went just 4-11. They've finished even in interleague play twice, including Francona's swan-song 2000 season.
Their best season was in 1999, when they wound up 11-7 against the American League and 77-85 overall. In the stretch when the Phillies won five straight division titles, two pennants and a World Series from 2007-11, they went 37-45, a .451 percentage, against American League competition.
And it hasn't really mattered if they've played home or away. At Citizens Bank Park and Veterans Stadium combined, the Phillies are 62-75, .452 against the AL. On the road, they are 59-73, .447.
The Phillies have played the Boston Red Sox 49 times, more than any other American League opponent. They are 20-29 against the Bosox, with four more games coming up at the end of this month. Other bad interleague records of note include 7-14 against the Tampa Bay Rays, 2-7 against the Seattle Mariners and 1-5 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Phils have winning records against the Texas Rangers (6-3), the Indians (6-4) and the Chicago White Sox (5-4).
The Phillies and the New York Yankees have split 24 interleague games to date.
Before you lament the Phillies' struggles with the AL a little too much, you should know such woes are actually a familiar theme in the National League. The American League has won the overall head-to-head matchup 12 times in 16 years, including every year since 2004. Entering 2013, Three NL teams had fared worse than the Phillies against American League opponents - the Cincinnati Reds (.443), the San Diego Padres (.437) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (.397). The Los Angeles Dodgers had played 11 fewer games than the Phillies, but had posted the same .453 winning percentage entering this season.
Five National League teams have found interleague play to their liking. The St. Louis Cardinals had the best record entering 2013 at 125-110, .532. Other successful teams include the Atlanta Braves (.529), Miami Marlins (.519), New York Mets (.515) and the San Francisco Giants (.512).
Entering this season, the New York Yankees were the best of all interleague teams with a 170-112 record, a .603 percentage. The Red Sox are 161-122, a .576 percentage. Only six American League teams have a sub-.500 record in interleague play, the worst being the Baltimore Orioles (.445).
Most traditionalists, like Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland, would like to see interleague play disappear, saying it has run its course in terms of fan interest. But baseball appears to be going the other way. The Phillies will play 20 games against the American League in 2013, more than they ever have in one season. They even opened their home schedule this year with an interleague series against the Kansas City Royals.
So it's safe to say interleague play isn't going away soon. And history indicates that's bad news for the Phillies.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.
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