CHICAGO – Details of the Chicago Peace Treaty of 2006, reached on the outfield grass at Wrigley Field on Friday, were not released to the public. The main provision is believed to include some form of the following phrase: "Michael Barrett will really, really try his hardest not to punch A.J. Pierzynski in the face again."
Only those with eyes trained on Barrett and Pierzynski caught the impromptu meeting before the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox engaged in another series for city-wide bragging rights, a series, remember, brought to the public only by interleague play, because the Cubs and White Sox meeting in the World Series might throw the earth off its axis.
Barrett, the Cubs catcher fresh off his 10-game suspension for cold-cocking Pierzynski in the jaw after getting plowed over in a collision at the plate, sought out the White Sox catcher, ostensibly to apologize for the cheap shot. They commiserated, then parted, and when asked later whether the beef ended there, Barrett's next four words, though not Shakespearean in their eloquence, illustrated his answer.
"Um. You know. Um."
"Like I said," Barrett kept on, "I really don't want to elaborate."
Which was his way of saying: Of course it doesn't end there. This is Chicago. And though the Cubs and White Sox may yet ply their niceties for the remainder of the weekend, rivalries that encompass cities – and are stoked by fisticuffs – do not evaporate with a handshake.
Interleague play, for some reason, seems to be getting an awfully bad rap these days. So much is made of the American League dominance – by a 139-85 count heading into Saturday's games – that the denigrators overlook two realities.
First, interleague games were instituted 10 years ago, in part, to increase interest by determining supremacy city-wide and league-wide – and setting the stage for some kind of an upset were the better league to lose in the World Series. And second, coming into this season the all-time interleague record was 1,104-1,095.
With the National League nine games better.
Now, this isn't to say the NL has been a better league than the AL over the last 10 years. The AL has won seven of those World Series, and this season, one easily could argue that seven of the game's eight best teams (Detroit, White Sox, Boston, Yankees, Toronto, Minnesota and Oakland) are in the AL.
Still, what interleague play lacks in parity – a tired concept anyway – it more than makes up for in pomp.
New Yorkers get to run their mouths more than usual when the Yankees play the Mets. The Dodgers and Angels get to argue over who truly deserves the Los Angeles name. Cincinnati and Cleveland get to fight for supremacy of the North-South Interstate system, and St. Louis and Kansas City get to duel for East-West.
In Chicago, where the teams went 90 years without playing each other following the 1906 World Series, each game carries even more significance.
"It's good in cities with two teams, cities that are close to each other," Pierzynski said. "For players and coaches it's kind of a pain. You've got to do a lot of homework on people you don't play. But it's good for the game – and today, for Chicago."
Flaws do exist in interleague play. There are bad series. There are awful series. And there was Kansas City-Pittsburgh, for which an adjective has yet to be discovered.
"Cubs-White Sox, Yankees-Mets – that's what it's for," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "Some of the other ones are played out. The ones that have no relation to each other are getting a little old. But the rivalry games still are great.
"It's something to monitor. The novelty's worn off. All in all it's good, but in five years, it might be time to do away with it."
Baseball won't. The great games outweigh the stinkers. Attendance increases by nearly 10 percent for interleague games. That means more money in ticket sales and parking and concessions and merchandise.
And, more poignant, it means moments like Friday, in the top of the fifth inning. Cubs rookie Sean Marshall, wobbling along after a tough first inning, uncorked a curveball that forgot to curve. Instead, it dove straight for the elbow of – you guessed it – A.J. Pierzynski.
He didn't look terribly miffed. Bad curveballs bruise pitchers' egos, not batters' arms.
"It's over with," Pierzynski said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over with. Hopefully, we can move on."
Sounded like Pierzynski was willing to hold up his end of the treaty. For now.
No one said it extends into 2007. This is Chicago.
- White Sox