Interleague play has been around since 1997, and over the course of these past 15 years, the Mariners have played a lot of National League teams in National League ballparks. They played Washington in Washington just yesterday. The team, then, as well as many fans, are no strangers to the NL style of baseball.
However, tonight and this weekend mark a special occasion: due to a scheduling conflict with the most powerful band in the universe, the Mariners will play the Marlins as the road team at Safeco Field. For the first time in franchise history, the Mariners will play under NL rules at home, and so I thought it appropriate to offer a refresher course on just what Safeco will be playing host to. What is National League baseball? What should you expect to see as you head to the ballpark this weekend? You'll notice a few differences from the norm.
NL baseball means that, instead of Jack Cust and Jose Vidro and Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez and Ken Griffey Jr. and Carl Everett and Milton Bradley and Jeff Clement standing at the plate doing nothing, pitchers stand at the plate and do nothing. Hitting, of course, is not what pitchers are supposed to do, since they are pitchers, but NL baseball makes them do it anyway, since the NL hates pitchers, as evidenced by this rule and Dusty Baker. Pitchers trying to hit is not unlike gazelles chasing lions. Their attempts can be adorable but one way or another they end up on the ground bleeding.
The double switch is a type of substitution unique to the National League. Because the NL made pitcher hitting a rule, the NL subsequently had to adopt a bunch of rules designed to minimize the frequency with which pitchers have to hit, because pitchers are terrible hitters. The NL insists on making life needlessly complicated, and in the double switch, one guy comes in for another guy, and another guy comes in for another guy, and the two new guys trade positions, and the pitcher's spot moves somewhere else in the lineup. The double switch makes NL baseball superior in the way that a five-dollar word makes a sentence superior, in that it doesn't.
You see a lot more pinch-hitters in the NL than the AL, so named because they are ready in a pinch! A pinch-hitter is called upon when an NL manager is like "oh God this guy" and then he's like "I'd rather have this guy." The first guy is usually a pitcher and sending someone else to hit for him is a way for NL managers to feel like they are AL managers, which they all wish they were.
Because NL baseball uses so many more pinch-hitters, NL benches need guys who can pinch-hit, so every NL team has Wes Helms, including the Marlins. Although they will play under alternate rules, the Mariners will not be given a Wes Helms, and so they will be at a disadvantage.
Putting the game in motion
Traditionally, NL baseball features a lot more bunts and steals and hit-and-run attempts, all grouped together under the umbrella expression of putting the game in motion. NL baseball has to be put in motion because it is too clunky and stupid to go anywhere on its own.
Finally, the last difference you'll see as the M's take on an NL team under NL rules is that the NL team has worse talent than what we've come to expect from AL opponents. Long ago, the introduction of the designated hitter caused the best players to flock to the AL, where the rules weren't stupid. This led to an imbalance wherein the NL became something like a higher level of the minors, and the imbalance was sustained when players kept moving to the AL so they could play against the best. The NL these days is the home of the lazy, the unambitious, and those enslaved by team control.
This weekend, the Mariners will play the NL's Marlins in Seattle under National League rules. Because of these rules, you will see pitchers hitting, and as a consequence you will probably see double-switches, pinch-hitters, and Wes Helms. Additionally, the Marlins may opt to put the game in motion, as it is the traditional style of their league, but because they're an NL team, they're stocked with worse players than the average AL team, so a Mariner sweep is not out of the question.