The date was October 19, 2002. 44,603 screaming fans packed Edison Field in Anaheim to witness Game One of the World Series. Giants Center Fielder Kenny Lofton walked to the batters box and dug in against Angels starter Jarrod Washburn. On October 1, 1903, almost a full century earlier, a less impressive crowd of 16,242 filled the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds in Boston to watch the Boston Americans take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the very first World Series game. Pirates center fielder Ginger Beaumont dug in against Boston right hander Cy Young. 99 years had passed and The Fall Classic had remain relatively unchanged.
However, the commissioner and ‘the-powers-that-be’ felt a need to alter the tradition of Baseball. In an effort to increase viewer ship and revenue, they decided that the winner of the All-Star Game would have home field advantage for the World Series. This notion is ludicrous. The All-Star Game is supposed to be a celebration of the history of baseball, a chance for the torch to be passed to a new generation of heroes. From Phil Rizzuto to Derek Jeter, from Ted Williams to Manny Ramirez, from Willie Mays to…well, lets not get carried away.
Six years after the All-Star Game has “counted” and meant something, we are still confused. Is it an exhibition where the top stars are showcased? Or is it a “must win” game for each league? If it truly is a must win situation, then lets play a real All Star Game. If winning the All-Star Game is now so imperative, then why must every team be represented? Are we trying to win or are we just being fair? Managers should not be burdened with trying to get every player on the roster some playing time. If this is the case, lets just put the 9 best players on the field and let them go at it. Lets see Johan Santana duel Josh Beckett for 9 innings.
Fans, however, would not stand for this. As Mets fans, we are battling the Phillies for the top spot in the NL East. We would all be furious to see our ace “wasted” in a meaningless exhibition. One start against the American League means one less start against the Phillies or Marlins or a game that really does “count.”
If Commissioner Selig feels a need to tinker with the very nature of the World Series, here are some options:
1) Simply stated, the League Champion with the better record should host four of the seven games. If the AL champions win 97 games and the NL champs win 94, then the AL would host the Series. Plain and simple.
2) Since Selig and company are such fans of Interleague play, we can incorporate more meaning into that. Give home field advantage to the league champion who has the better overall record in interleague play. Along the same lines, why not just give home field advantage to the league that does better head-to-head? This would definitely increase interest. As Mets fans, we would actually care about a game between the Astros and the Rangers.
3) Simply go back to the way it was, alternating from year to year. This worked out well for a century.
These same individuals also claim that since “This Time It Counts,” fans across the board will watch the game. Again, I disagree. With roughly 70 games left to be played, it’s safe to say that many teams literally have no chance of making the post-season. I find it hard to believe that fans in Baltimore or Seattle or San Diego will be sitting on the edge of their seats Tuesday night, glued to the television.
I strongly believe the All-Star Game needs to be returned to what it was: a celebration of the games top players, a three day break for fans and players to rest, regroup and prepare for the pennant race. It gives us all one final chance to take a deep breath before the last push to October. The calm before the storm.
The team that has had home field advantage has won 8 of the last 10 World Series. Too much is at stake based on one game. The effects of a three hour ball game in July should not be felt in October.