For the past 14 seasons, the winning league in baseball’s annual All Star Game was awarded the home field advantage in that season’s World Series.
It was a ridiculous idea from the start. Mercifully, Major League Baseball has come to their senses.
As part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (that still has to be ratified) the home field advantage in the World Series will be decided by the pennant winner with the best record. In other words, of the two teams that come out of their respective LCS, the one with the better regular season record would get the home field advantage and the benefit of a potential seventh game in their ballpark.
The concept of the All Star game winner deciding home field in the World Series was born as a result of the 2002 All Star Game at Milwaukee’s Miller Park that ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings.
Leading up to the 2002 game, a trend developed where the All Star managers were beginning to use all the pitchers they had available in an effort to get everyone into the game in nine innings. The drawback was like the regular season in that you risk running out of arms if the game goes to extra innings.
That’s what happened in ’02 as American League manager Joe Torre (Yankees) and Bob Brenley (Diamondbacks) ran out of pitchers. Torre carried nine pitchers while Brenley had ten.
In the 11th, Brenley met with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and informed him that he would not have any pitchers left if the game went to a 12th inning. Selig decided that the game would not go past the 11th inning.
The Commissioner of Baseball could not afford to have a player get hurt in trying to decide a winner in an exhibition game. “We reviewed every option available”, Selig said at the time. “I had no alternatives”.
The fans booed when the decision was announced and began a chant of “let them play”. When the game ended in a tie, the fans booed again and some threw garbage on the field.
The fallout from a game that didn’t count was so ridiculously overwhelming that Selig caved into the criticism and decided to implement a “gimmick” to add a little “spice” to the game.
Starting in 2003, the winning league in the All Star game would get the home field advantage in the World Series. Previously, the home field was rotated on a yearly basis between the leagues.
I, like many others, hated this concept from the start.
How can you allow the result of an exhibition game decide who gets an advantage in the “crown jewel event” of your sport?
Some have said that the concept worked, that the game got more interesting with home field advantage in the Series on the line.
If you go by TV ratings, the All Star game has steadily lost interest.
In 2003, the first year that the concept of “home field” was in effect, the All Star game had a lower rating than in 2002. In the 13 succeeding games, the number of households watching the game went over 10 million only four times (2006, 2008 when the game went to 15 innings, 2009, 2014)
Last season, the game hit “rock bottom” as it captured less than 6,000,000 households and 8,700,000 viewers.
Going by my personal “eye test”, the games were boring but I still watched. My passion for the sport drew me to the game.
I was always a fan of the All Star game. Of course, I am old enough to go back to a time when not every game was on television and the “Mid-Summer Classic” was more of a novelty than it is now.
The logistics have obviously changed over the years. Every game is televised, players are seen more than ever and the leagues play each other in meaningful games.
MLB had the right idea in “dressing up” the All Star game with pre-game events like the “home run derby” and showcasing the sport with exhibitions in the host city, but baseball got too caught up with the idea of tweaking the actual nine-inning game.
Baseball should take a cue from the minor leagues and implement a “home run derby” to decide a winner in case the game does go to extra innings.
Right after the tie in Milwaukee, the Frontier League implemented a “home run derby” to decide their All Star game beginning in 2002. Since then, the “derby” has decided the game four times, including last season.
Home field is not on the line anymore, so for a game that is in reality, a “gimmick”, why not a “gimmick” to decide a winner. You could get the fans involved by having them text their choice or choices as to who would participate from each league once the game completed nine or even ten innings. The competition would be “round-by-round” and the fans could choose up to three players. The managers, like the hockey coaches in a shoot out, would then choose the order of participation.
Something else to ponder is having the ability to bring back a starting player back after they have left the game.
These are just suggestions that may invoke more interest.
The bottom line is that the absurd incentive of home field for winning the All Star game is a thing of the past and should never have been implemented in the first place.