PITTSBURGH (AP) -Chipper Jones likes interleague games, playing in ballparks he hasn't seen before and opposing teams the Atlanta Braves seldom face. What he doesn't like is this kind of interleague play.
With interleague games resuming next weekend, the Braves third baseman on Sunday sharply criticized the current format that requires the Braves to meet the Red Sox and the Mets to oppose the Yankees six times each, while other NL East teams play less-rugged schedules.
``I don't think there's any question it's not fair, but I don't think major league baseball is concerned with fair,'' Jones said before Atlanta's 13-2 loss in Pittsburgh. ``If you play the top teams in the American League and everybody else doesn't, it's pretty unfair.''
While the Braves oppose the Red Sox (6 games), Tigers (3), Twins (3) and Indians (3), and the Mets face the Yankees (6), Tigers (3), Twins (3) and Athletics (3), the other NL East teams look to have less-demanding schedules. The Phillies, for example, play three games each against the losing-record Blue Jays and Royals, plus three each against the White Sox, Indians and Tigers.
``Is it fun? Yeah. It's fun playing in new cities. It's fun playing in front of new crowds, it's fun playing new teams,'' Jones said. ``What's not fun is when they're all contenders and your competition doesn't have to play the same competition you do.''
What Jones most dislikes is the recently added wrinkle that requires teams to play so-called regional rivals in home-and-home series each season, such as Braves-Red Sox, Yankees-Mets and Angels-Dodgers.
``It's a factor (in the pennant race),'' Jones said. ``We play Boston six times, and they've got the best record in the American League. We play the top three teams in the toughest division in baseball (the AL Central). We, without a doubt, have the toughest schedule in baseball, bar none. You don't play in our division and play the interleague schedule we play and not say we don't have the toughest schedule.''
Since interleague play started in 1997, the Braves' 91-75 record is the sixth best in the majors. The Yankees are the best with a 103-71 record; the Pirates are easily the worst with a 52-84 record. But, at the start, teams from one division played only those from another division, so each team played roughly the same schedule.
The regional rivalry concept changed that. This season, the Mets play interleague games against teams from all three AL divisions.
``If we're going to play the American League Central, everybody has to play all the teams in the American League Central,'' Jones said. ``This split-it-up and we have to play our rival in the American League East stuff, I don't get it. It's unfair for us and the Mets on a year-in, year-out basis to have to play the Yankees and Red Sox when other teams don't.
``This is no disrespect to the rest of the teams in the American League East, because Tampa is up and coming, and in two or three years, Tampa might be the class of the American League East and the Florida Marlins are going to have to deal with it,'' he said.
Interleague play creates a difficult pre-All-Star schedule for the Braves, who play 12 interleague games in 13 days next month against the Twins and Indians on the road and the Red Sox and Tigers at home. After that, they play the Nationals at home, then go on the road for a 10-day road trip to Florida, Los Angeles and San Diego before the All-Star break.
``We should do it the way we did it the first five or six years of interleague play, and that's play every team in the American League East, every team in West and so on,'' Jones said.
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