Should MLB All-Star Game Decide Home-Field Advantage?
Each week, PressBox baseball writers weigh in with their thoughts on a different question. Since 2003, the MLB All-Star Game has decided home-field advantage for the World Series. Jim Henneman and Matt Palmer debate the merits of this rule and whether it gives too much influence to an exhibition game of fan favorites.
By Matt Palmer
Major League Baseball can't get out of its own way.
The All-Star Game was always about spectacle, history and romanticism.
During the early 2000s, MLB decided that wasn't enough. Instead of adding meaning to the game, the home-field advantage stipulation has made the regular season less meaningful.
|Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Jim Johnson are representing the Orioles, and the American League, at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.
You can get why, at some point, they made the decision. All-Star games in the NFL and NBA are meaningless enterprises in which no one plays defense and stars are scared of touching another human being, because they have millions of dollars on the line.
A team can have the best record in baseball by a good margin and still not have home-field advantage because of what happened at the All-Star Game, where players are chosen because fans and teams stuff ballots on the Internet and in person. Teams such as the Orioles and Nationals are both in contention, but have OK, not great, attendance, and could suffer down the road because of what happens Tuesday.
On top of that, players are at the mercy of late-game decisions managers make in order to squeeze as many players on the field as possible.
Every team has to have an All-Star player, so conceivably a mercy player can impact the entire postseason, even though his inclusion is a little dubious. Postseason field advantage should be decided by one thing, and one thing only: performance during the regular season. It's a 162-game marathon, and if a team thrives, let alone survives, that should result in the ultimate reward.
Baseball must reverse this practice.
By Jim Henneman
Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to make the All-Star Game relevant by tying it into home-field advantage for the World Series admittedly was probably a case of overreaction to an embarrassing situation that could've easily been avoided -- the 2002 game ending in a tie. It was the kind of knee-jerk response you'd expect when the managers tell you they don't have enough pitchers to continue.
There were extra-inning All-Star games in the past that were completed without incident -- because neither side was without players. Heck, Ted Williams hit a couple of walk-off home runs, one in extra innings, and you know he wasn't pinch-hitting. Catfish Hunter once pitched four innings and took an All-Star loss. But that was when the managers played the game to win, and not to use it as a popularity contest, when it became more important to get everybody in the game than it did to win.
The game might be a meaningless exhibition in the eyes of many, but that's not the way it was, or should be, treated. The fact that there was some pride involved was one of the things that have made the game the best of the All-Star spectacles (much more on this in the July print issue). By the way, if in fact this is nothing more than an exhibition to showcase the game's best talent, why would anybody really care if the game ended in a tie? It's not as if the sport's integrity was on the line.
Years ago, when the American League was getting thumped regularly, league president Lee MacPhail got so perturbed, he determined that no pitcher selected could pitch the Sunday before the game. His managers, of course, screamed about how he was damaging their chances, but MacPhail was so embarrassed by the AL's showing that he stood his ground. It didn't help much, but he let it be known that winning the game was important, and he was tired of playing second fiddle.
Somewhere along the line, that feeling seemed to be lost -- by both leagues, and more recently, except for a couple of notable exceptions, the National League has been on the wrong end. The fact that the NL has managed to win the World Series the last two times it won the All-Star Game probably hasn't been lost on those involved.
There are so many players selected now that it's almost impossible to duplicate the situation of 10 years ago. But the truth of the matter now, as it was then, is it really shouldn't be that big of a deal. There are so many gimmicks involved with the gala that it would be easy to install one as a tie-breaker. Why not, after an agreed number of innings, advertise that the game would be decided by a home-run contest by those in the lineup at the time? My guess is, in this gimmicky reality era, you'd have a sellout crowd rooting for overtime.
If ESPN can make an all-night extravaganza out of the Home Run Derby the night before the All-Star Game (with tickets, incidentally, that cost almost as much as those for the game itself) -- why not have one to end, and decide, an extra-inning game as well? It would be baseball's version of a shootout, better even than postgame fireworks.
Then we could go back to the future and simply rotate home-field advantage for the World Series between the leagues, just as it used to be, and nobody would care who won the game -- just as it used to be. But then, we wouldn't even bother to debate the issue -- just as it used to be.
Posted July 10, 2012