NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
The 87th edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game finished up late Tuesday night in San Diego, with the American League defeating their counterparts in the National League for a fourth consecutive year, making it 16 of the last 20.
That means the AL representative in the World Series will be awarded home field advantage. Say what you want about the format, it’s proven to be a pretty big deal. Since MLB incorporated the ‘winner gets home field in the World Series’ prize for the All-Star Game in 2003, the team with home-field advantage has won 9 of the last 13 Fall Classics. Overall, the Game 1 host of the World Series has gone on to win 24 of the last 30 titles.
Despite the actual clause itself proving to be rather important over the last three decades, the majority of baseball fans seem to really care for the fact that something as important as home field is determined by an event that is meant to be for more entertainment value. The players themselves don’t let that stop them, they give max effort every year in the game and it is a reason why the baseball mid-summer classic is by and far the most entertaining of all the major pro sports All-Star Games.
The common argument with selection process for players in the All-Star Game is letting the fans vote for something that has some capacity of importance and future implications. In the other three major pro sports (NBA, NFL, NHL), the All-Star Game is virtually 100 percent for show and not competitive whatsoever, players on both sides in each of those sports are giving a fraction of the effort they would for a regular season game. In baseball, the players are competing at a level equal to, if not more than, some random game in May or August, because the All-Star Game counts.
I’m all in favor of having a more creative way of assigning home field than just giving it to the championship round representative with the best record, like they do in the NBA and NHL (not that there is anything wrong with it). And the NFL plays the Super Bowl on a pre-determined neutral site since the late 1960s — good idea.
Baseball has the right idea, but they are going about it all wrong. That’s why I’m here to fix it.
Let’s start with what what we DO know. The All-Star Game for all intents and purposes is meant to be more for entertainment value versus a max-effort competitive event, and there is nothing wrong with that. Hell, I’m in favor of adding more skills competitions to the All-Star festivities if it means drawing more interest from fans.
I propose something to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: Take the player voting out of the power of fans, or change the rule for awarding home field in the World Series. The two just simply do not work well together.
If we want the MLB All-Star Game to have home-field implications, then the fans need less power in voting the players in. Sorry fans, you by and large do a good job getting the players right. This suggestion is merely being made because it’s hard to go even 24 hours without the topic even being mentioned somewhere in the media during baseball season.
Having the players vote for their fellow colleagues in each respective league in the mid-summer classic would be the preferred method if the ultimate goal is clinching home field. They and the managers for each league in the game already have the power to select their own reserves and pitching staffs. One big concern over the fans voting for a game with meaning is stuffing the ballots, or certain teams and players not being deservedly represented. Leaving all of that to the players and coaches eliminates that entirely.
That was option A, here is option B: Let the fans vote for the entire rosters. Position players, pitchers, but remove the ‘winner receives home field’ tag from the game itself. This already happens in the NBA and NHL. And it works because it’s all for show because the fans get to see their favorite players in a meaningless game during a time meant for a break from the season.
The alternative for determining home field? Well, there is Interleague play from start to finish in any single Major League Baseball season nowadays. Hey, the Detroit Tigers opened up the 2016 season in a National League ballpark and will close the season in another. There’s a methodology cycle in place for baseball in which teams play a different set of teams from the opposite league in a given season. Smart!
So why not just award home field to the league that performs better in Interleague play collectively for that given season?
It certainly makes you wonder if that was the case. Interleague play in the regular season began back in 1997. Over the last 20 seasons, the American League has posted a winning record against the National League in 16 of those 20, including the previous 12 seasons. This year, the AL is 97-83 against their Senior Circuit counterparts.
So how different of this would have played out? The four years that the National League won the Interleague Battle — 1997, 1999, 2002-03 — only the ’99 season did the NL have home field in the World Series (Atlanta Braves swept by the New York Yankees). Conversely, the American League has bettered the NL in Interleague play every season since 2004, but the NL won the All-Star Game three years in a row from 2010-12. Makes you wonder what would have happened if the AL representative in those three World Series (Texas Rangers in 2010 and ’11, Tigers in ’12) were awarded home field as opposed to the NL squad.
So what am I getting at here? I just want things to make sense so we can all stop having the same conversation on the home-field dilemma every single baseball season. MLB can hit a home run if they make some tweaks to the system and eliminate the gray area.