Home Field Advantage for the World Series

Stephen NoffkeContributor IJuly 14, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29:  The World Series Championship trophy is held up in front of fans of the Philadelphia Phillies after they won 4-3 against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Home Field Advantage

Alright so I am sure you’ve heard it before, but why should MLB’s All-Star determine home field advantage in the World Series. I say, why not, it’s as good as anything else out there. I know most of you are probably thinking, what is he talking about? Well I’ll get into all the pros and cons of using the All-Star game as well as show you that there really is no good way to determine home field advantage.

Current Format

Winner of All-Star Game Gets Home Field Advantage.

Sounds simple enough, whatever league’s best players are better gets to have their league host the World Series. Well, as we all know there is a major flaw in this, not all of the league’s best players make the All-Star game. With fan voting and every team needing an All-Star (Full disclosure, I like every team being represented and hate fan voting) some inferior players make the All-Star team. Also, the game is an exhibition and the game is still treated that way.

No manager is going to throw Roy Halladay for nine innings in an All-Star game to guarantee home field advantage. At most I expect to see a pitcher only pitch three innings tonight. Also, all the All-stars get rotated out in situations they normally wouldn’t. Would Manuel really bench Albert Pujols in a real game the way he is hitting right now? No. but because it’s an exhibition they will.

So clearly the current format has flaws. Let’s look at other ways they’ve used to determine home field advantage.

Team with Most Wins Gets Home Field Advantage.

Another plan that sounds simple enough. This is how the reward home field advantage in every other major professional sport’s playoffs, including MLB until the World Series. There is a flaw though. Without getting into the debate of which brand of baseball is better or which league of baseball is better, but there are some years where the AL is better then the NL and years when the NL is better then the AL.

With the recent dominance of the AL in both the All-Star game and Inter-league play we can assume the AL is better. So would it be fair to give the Dodgers home field advantage over the Red Sox? The Dodgers might have more wins then the Red Sox at the end of the season, but they did so beating inferior teams while the Red Sox had to play a more difficult schedule. So should number of wins be used? Again it is flawed.

Home Field Advantage Switches Every Year.

To avoid dilemma just mentioned, MLB used to just switch off who hosted World Series. At this time, outside of the All-Star game, this is the only time the NL and the AL would go head to head. There was no real way to determine which league was better and made number of wins tougher to compare.

So what did baseball do? 1 year AL hosted, the next year NL hosted. Now this might sound dumb, but it might actually be the most fair in the long run. Yes an AL would be upset when an NL team hosted an vice versa, but that same AL team would not be complaining if it was an AL year. Again another flawed way to determine home field advantage, but as I am sure you are starting to see, they all are.

So these have been done in the past, what other ways could be used to determine home field advantage. These are suggestions that I have heard.

Team with the Better Inter League Record Gets Home Field Advantage.

One team is better against the other league so they should get home field. This is again flawed. What happens if both teams go 10-5? Do they then use margin of victory? If they do that, then they are turning into College Football and saying the two wins are not equal?

Another way it’s flawed is the regional match ups. Is it fair that the Yankees and Mets, two recently traditionally good teams play each other six times in inter league play while the Cardinals and the Royals, with the Cardinals being traditionally good and as of late the Royals have not, play six times? Of course not, no two inter league schedule are the same.

League with Better Inter League Record Gets Home Field Advantage.

This has a much lower probability of ties and significantly reduces the advantages and disadvantages from regional play. This would create even more ratings for inter league, especially on the last weekend in a close race. This also is a better representation of which league is better during that season then the All-Star game. But there are some issues with this as well. Let’s use the Baltimore and Washington series as an example. This year, neither is likely to have much of a chance in the World Series race.

This can be a pro, because even though this game is pretty meaningless to both teams playoffs hopes, it means something for their leagues playoffs hopes. The con though is, why should these two teams effect what happens to contenders for the World Series?

Neutral Location/2-2-1-1-Nuetral Location

So this got a lot of headlines last year with the weather delays in Philadelphia. MLB trying to create a Super Bowl type atmosphere at a neutral location. The big problem with this is it takes at least one week to play the World Series. Are fans going to be able to take that much time off to make the trip? Can they afford a week of hotels? Can the fans of the clubs get the time off and get the hotels on such quick notice? I do not think so. So the event will be just like the Super Bowl, very corporate and very dead in the crowd. The fun of being a fan is seeing your own team play in it’s own ball park in front of it’s own fans. This can not be done with a full neutral location.

Instead of doing a full neutral location, what about make game seven neutral? This would be a much better alternative for the neutral location suggestion cause both teams can play in front of their own crowds and then have a big event at the end to determine the winner. A few problems though, how do you determine who gets games one, two and five at home? I personally would like to see games one, two and five at home, but others might find it better to have three, four and six. So how do you decided this? This then leads to the debate of possibilities of everything that has already been discussed and now we are going in circles.

Clearly, every suggestion for home field advantage is flawed, some more so then others. I personally think the simplest is the most fair; Alternate years. Even though I know I’d be pissed if the White Sox made it to the World Series that happened to be in an NL year, but overall I think it is the least flawed suggestion. I think the most fun World Series would come from the 2-2-1-1-Nutral Location suggestion if we could determine which games are played where.

I am sure there are millions of opinions out there, so what do you think? Let me know.