The 2015 MLB schedule has been revealed, and the Red Sox will start the season in Philadelphia against the Phillies, marking the latest chapter in a rivalry that isn't.
Interleague play is annoying for a lot of reasons. National League teams that don't have to think about designated hitters for most of the year don't sink resources into maximizing the utility of that spot. American League teams that enjoy the luxury of that spot for most of the year have pitchers who are even less threatening at the plate than their National League counterparts. Often enough managers would rather just give away a free out rather than risk an injury in the process of keeping up the charade.
As much as anything else, though, there's the fact that few of these teams really care about facing one another. Sure, there are a few cross-town series here and there, but by-and-large when a National League team meets an American League team outside of October, the games inspire the least emotional investment of any on the lengthy schedule. As a Red Sox fan, there's still some bad blood with the Angels from years past. We have recent playoff history against the Tigers, always seem to play under our level against the Mariners, have often struggled against the Rangers, etc. etc. etc.
Competing against these teams, and often racing against them for wild card spots is what makes us as fans care about what team we're facing on any given day. Major League Baseball slapping a "Natural Rivalry" label on a matchup is not.
I don't really know why Philadelphia and Boston were paired up. Maybe they're still sore about the 1915 World Series in Center City? Perhaps they're going really deep on American revolutionary era center-of-politics stuff? Whatever the reason, it's silly and stupid. Red Sox - Braves (the other "Natural Rival" assigned to Boston) at least has its basis in the last 100 years!
Really, the reason we got stuck with the Phillies (and they with us) is because the Phillies didn't have anyone else to play while MLB was shoving the Mets and Yankees into action every season.
And the thing is, there's actually an alternative out there. Nobody's thinking about 1915 anymore, but you can bet there's plenty of fans out there who remember 2004 and 2013. Given that the Red Sox came out on top both time, I'm guessing any resentment is greater on St. Louis' side than on ours, but if there's going to be a good rivalry to be found between the Red Sox and just about any National League team (at least past the tenure of one Carl Crawford in Los Angeles), it's going to be Red Sox - Cardinals.
Interleague play is a fact of life now, like it or not. The league isn't doing away with it anytime soon, no matter how convoluted the logic they have to employ to pretend anyone outside of a few select markets actually cares. but if we have to endure pitchers hitting year-round, at least drop the conceit of a Philadelphia - Boston rivalry and give us an opponent we've got some legitimate recent history with.
That might be worth watching.