All-Star Game and home-field advantage overblown

All-Star Game no-shows, like New York's Derek Jeter, had fans wondering how important the game really is when it comes to securing home field advantage for the World Series. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

As a baseball traditionalist, I have two big criticisms with the current setup of the All-Star Game. The first is having the winning league getting home-field advantage for the World Series. The second is that interleague play takes away from the All-Star Game.

I think most people would agree determining home field for a championship series based on an exhibition and possibly involving players who will be watching the Fall Classic on TV is a bad idea. However, let’s take a look at how that has worked out.

From 2003, the first time the All-Star Game winner got home-field advantage in the World Series, through 2009, the AL won the All-Star Game. Before 2003, the leagues had alternated home-field edge with the NL getting the odd years, which means the NL lost the home-field advantage in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. Would having the home field have mattered in the World Series in those years?

My research shows probably not.

The Florida Marlins won the Series in 2003 anyway, so that year doesn’t count. In 2005, the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros, and in 2007, the Boston Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies. Even the most optimistic Houston and Colorado fans have to admit the home field wouldn’t have mattered.

That brings us to 2009, where the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. You could say the home field could have made the difference in one game, but I’m not sure two.

In 2010, the NL won the All-Star Game, giving it the home field in the World Series, when with the old setup, the AL would have had four games at home. What happened? The San Francisco Giants won in five over the Texas Rangers. Again, home field might be worth one game, but not more.

So, here’s the recap of the five occasions when a league lost the home-field advantage it would have had: one time that league’s representative won the World Series anyway, there were two sweeps, one series went five games and another went six.

All I heard after last night’s game was how the NL won the home-field advantage. It being an odd year, I prefer to think of it as the NL held serve.

Maybe the criticism of the All-Star Game and home-field advantage, of which I’m a charter member, is much ado about nothing.

Now, let’s look at why I think interleague play has hurt the All-Star Game.

Part of the allure of the All-Star Game was anticipating matchups you wouldn’t normally see. You could have a Yankees pitcher going against a Mets hitter, White Sox against the Cubs, and so on. With interleague play, that allure is taken away from the All-Star Game.

Second, after seeing how many players pulled out of this year’s All-Star Game, maybe part of the blame can be placed on interleague play.

At least 16 All-Stars backed out, including 13 of the original 68. Six of those were pitchers who went Sunday, and a handful of others had legitimate injuries. But there were other players who backed out for sketchy reasons.

Players used to treat the All-Star Game as a social event, where they could interact with friends in the other league, which they couldn’t do in the regular season. But with interleague play, they get those opportunities, so maybe they don’t treat the All-Star Game as they once did.

Other musings from my all-star break:

  • I like having every team represented. It’s an exhibition for all of major-league baseball. Every team needs to be there.
  • I like the home run derby contest. For the first time in many years, I caught myself watching it Monday night. While it’s not perfect and lasts too long, it still is good for fans and a good addition to the three-day break.
  • I like the idea of the Futures Game.

However, I do have one suggestion in regard to the All-Star Game activities: How about adding a skills-type competition, similar to what the NBA and NHL have at their all-star weekends? I doubt you could have a contest to see who throws the hardest or the farthest because you don’t want players getting injured. However, what about throwing accuracy, running the bases, or a fielding contest? Something to think about.

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