Walcoff: Lousy DH rule aside, interleague here to stay 

The best part of baseball’s dreadfully long regular season is upon us — interleague play.

Friday, the 12th year of AL-NL action begins when the Chicago White Sox make their first trip to S.F. to take on the Giants and the A’s head to Atlanta to face the Braves.

Aside from the ridiculous split-decision on the designated hitter rule that forces the A’s and other AL clubs to ditch the DH at NL parks, interleague play has been a booming success, with attendance last year reaching an all-time high of almost 35,000 a game. Of course, geographic rivalries fuel a lot of the excitement: Giants-A’s, Dodgers-Angels, Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Astros-Rangers, Nationals-Orioles, Marlins-Rays and Reds-Indians.

Now, if only baseball would restore the once hallowed tradition of having a pitcher actually use a bat every game.

» Meanwhile, it’s been a tale of two conferences in the NBA playoffs.

Riveting, high-flying action in the West and grinding, ugly slugfests in the East. Call me crazy, but I think all four teams still standing in the West — Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Hornets — could beat the best the East has to offer.

By the way, happy 68th birthday today to Don Nelson. As he blows out the candles on his cake, here’s a Nellie wish list: Favorably settle the $6.6 million contract dispute with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, get a big raise from the Warriors to coach one more season, win Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery (Golden State has a 1-in-200 chance of getting the top overall pick), have Baron Davis re-up in Oakland and forgive Nelson for that bizarre second-half benching in the next-to-last game in Phoenix.

» After firing Ron Wilson, the winningest coach in franchise history, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said the team needs more "systemic efficiency."

Sounds more like they need a new psychiatrist in the Shark Tank.

Diagnosis? Pathological inconsistency. Recommended treatment? Play every game like they did in that four-overtime loss in Dallas.

» Remember the 49ers’ "Million Dollar Backfield"? Half a century ago, four future Hall of Famers — Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson — put S.F. on the NFL map.

Well, today in Alameda, the Raiders unveil their $100 million backfield: Quarterback JaMarcus Russell and running back Darren McFadden will be together on the field for the first time. I saw McFadden at his inaugural pro practice last weekend and he looked as good as advertised. Raiders insiders say Russell has been a regular at offseason workouts and is in better shape than last year. So goes JaMarcus, so go the Raiders.

» Isn’t it curious how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell brings the whip down hard on players for their off-field transgressions, but gives the New England Patriots a virtual free pass in Spygate 2? No truth to the rumor the Pats will be hiring Martin Scorsese to shoot their game film, but given his movie credits — "Color of Money," "Cape Fear" and "Goodfellas" — Marty wouldbe a perfect partner for Bill Belichick.

Rich Walcoff is the sports director at KGO Radio (810 AM) and can be heard weekdays between 5-9 a.m. on the "KGO Morning News." He can also be reached at richwalcoff@abc-sf.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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