Commissioner Bud Selig has announced that home-field advantage in the World Series will continue to go to the winner of the All-Star Game, which is quite possibly the worst way to determine that.
Selig’s original decision came because of the 2002 All-Star Game, which ended in a tie because the managers had run out of pitchers. But that kind of result could be avoided by returning to the original purpose of the game: showcasing the sport’s best players.
The first All-Star Game I covered was at Candlestick in 1961, the first of two as baseball experimented with a two All-Star Game format.
The game went into the 10th inning, and the American League scored once in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the inning, Hank Aaron singled, went to second on a passed ball and scored on Willie Mays’ double. Frank Robinson was hit by a pitch and then Roberto Clemente singled in Mays to win the game.
Look at those names: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente. All in the Hall of Fame — and all still in the game in the 10th inning.
Today, they wouldn’t have lasted beyond the sixth inning, if that. More and more, All-Star Games are looking like spring training games, with the stars taking early showers.
Aiding and abetting the watering down of the game is the fact that rosters have been expanded and at least one player has to be picked from every team.
The result is that there are too many players on the roster who don’t deserve being called an All-Star. Yet, managers try to get them all into the game, which is what led to the 2002 embarrassment. Even worse, they can be the ones deciding the game. What a way to decide home-field advantage for the World Series!
There’s probably no way to restore the extreme competitiveness of earlier days. Players used to really bond with their teams — Jackie Robinson retired rather than go to the Giants in a trade — and with their leagues. So did executives. When Chub Feeney was president of the National League, he would give players a pep talk about representing their league in the dressing room before the game.
Now, with free agency, players switch from team to team and even to another league, so those loyalties no longer exist. But, they’re still competitive and they still want to win.So, give the best players a chance to do that.
The first change should be eliminating the provision that every team have a representative. If they’re not true All-Stars, they shouldn’t be there. Don’t you think fans would like a chance to see Stephen Strasburg instead of some nobody from a bad team?
Then, managers should be instructed to keep their best players in the lineup longer. Fans come out to see the big stars, whether they’re veterans or rookies.
Baseball’s All-Star Game is far ahead of the NFL Pro Bowl or the layup drill called the NBA All-Star Game. But it could be so much better if Selig would just remember the original purpose of the game.