World Series 2011: MLB Must Rewrite Home-Field Advantage Rule
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Held in Commissioner Bud Selig's hometown of Milwaukee, the 2002 MLB All-Star Game forever changed the sport of baseball, and not in a good way.
With both lineups thoroughly exhausted, Joe Torre's American League was tied with Bob Brenly's National League in extra innings. When it became abundantly clear that both teams might be locked in a stalemate, both managers and home plate umpire Gerry Davis met with Selig to discuss a contingency plan in the event that the National League did not score a winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning.
It was during this meeting that baseball began its descent into insanity.
Selig ruled that if the NL squad was unable to score in the next half inning, the game would be called as a tie. Sure enough, the NL was retired in order and the game ended amid a chorus of boos and chants of "Let them play" from the baseball-loving Milwaukee crowd.
It was the first time the Midsummer Classic had ended prematurely not due to inclement weather, and only the second time in MLB history that an All-Star Game had no winner.
Selig's move was unprecedented. After all, the 1987 All-Star Game lasted 13 innings before the National League scraped across two runs while the 1967 All-Star Game went 15 innings before its NL victory.
After the 2002 All-Star Game debacle, Major League Baseball and the players union agreed that something had to be done to prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring in future All-Star Games. It was a ratings nightmare, and rights holder FOX pressed Selig to come up with a new All-Star hook.
On May 1, 2003, MLB and the players union announced they had reached an agreement. A two-year experiment would be conducted in which the All-Star Game winner would retain World Series home-field advantage for its pennant winner. FOX couldn't be happier and began their, "This time, it counts" marketing campaign.
The American League won the 2003 and 2004 games and the 2003 Yankees and 2004 Red Sox accordingly received home field advantage in the World Series. However, both instances of home field advantage proved inconsequential, as the Marlins beat the Yankees in six games and the Cardinals were swept by Boston.
Partly because home field advantage did not affect the 2003 or 2004 World Series in any way, MLB and the players union agreed to make the change permanent.
From 2005 to 2009, the American League won every All-Star Game, and the AL pennant winner accordingly was given home-field advantage. Yet this proved inconsequential as well, since in each World Series between 2005-2009, the American League team had the better regular season record. No Series during that time would last seven games, making home field advantage irrelevant.
When the National League won the All-Star Game in 2010, the NL's San Francisco Giants had the better record. The Giants decisively beat the Rangers in the 2010 World Series four games to one, once again making home-field advantage irrelevant.
This year, for the second time since MLB's twisted experiment began, the team with the better regular season record will not receive home-field advantage. When it happened in 2004, the 105-57 NL Central champion Cardinals were swept by the 98-64 AL Wild Card Red Sox. St. Louis never recovered from losing the first two games in Boston.
For the Rangers, this one instance of a wild card team receiving home-field advantage doesn't bode well.
How should World Series home field advantage be determined?
For all its lockout mess, the NBA has led the way in the simple concept of bestowing Finals home field advantage on the team with the best regular season record.
In baseball, home-field advantage is paramount. The intricate architecture of a baseball stadium plays a huge role in scoring and defensive opportunities. The intangibility of momentum is a real force, one that can help drive a team to victory when they pounce upon their opponents early in a best-of-seven series.
St. Louis is the wild card team. The Cardinals only entered the playoffs as a result of an Atlanta implosion. They were 10.5 games out of playoff contention on August 24, finally clinching the NL wild card while still six games behind the NL Central champion Brewers.
The Cardinals do not deserve home-field advantage in the World Series. The challenge of being a visiting team underdog is yet another hill that the Cardinals should be expected to climb. If they are really as great as they are hyped up to be, they should be able to overcome that hurdle as well.
The Rangers are the AL West champions. They entered the playoffs 10 games ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They have now won the AL Pennant two consecutive seasons, yet thanks to a flawed rule, the Rangers will have to forgo home field advantage for the second straight year.
Let's take a quick look at the 2011 All-Star Game.
Cardinals All-Stars Yadier Molina, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday had zero RBI and zero runs scored between them. Rangers All-Stars Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre likewise produced zero RBI and zero runs apiece.
In the end, neither the Rangers nor Cardinals contributed any offensive production to further their teams' chances to win the All-Star Game. The Brewers' Prince Fielder hit one home run and had three RBI. The Dodgers' Andre Ethier and the Giants' Pablo Sandoval each added another RBI of their own.
In all fairness, Texas' C.J. Wilson was the losing pitcher, but he received little run support. Boston All-Star Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run for the American League's only run.
The Rangers and Cardinals don't deserve this. Baseball doesn't deserve this. The World Series is too important to succumb to a foolish marketing gimmick.
Technically, the seventh game creates the disparity in playing at two ballparks. Through Game 6, the teams are given equal opportunity to play at home. It is Game 7 which is so decisive.
The last World Series to go seven games was the 2002 Giants-Angels matchup. Mike Scioscia's 99-63 Angels were down 3-2 to Dusty Baker's 95-66 Giants as the series shifted back to Anaheim for Game 6. The Angels used every last ounce of their home field capabilities, including the AL designated hitter rule and a little known rally monkey, to propel their team to a miraculous six-run comeback, followed the next night by a dominant 4-1 championship clincher.
Including Anaheim's thrilling World Series win, Game 7 has been won by the home team in the last eight World Series that have gone all the way to seven games. The 1979 Pirates were the last road team to win Game 7 of the World Series.
When it comes to playoff baseball, the Division Series and League Championship Series have it right. The team with the best record should be afforded home-field advantage. They've earned it after 162-plus grueling games.
As for the World Series, it is wrong and unfair to change the rules just when the most important series of the year is set to begin.
It is wrong for a pennant winner to have to rely on another player, potentially one on a last place team, to make or break his league's chances of attaining home-field advantage for a championship three months away.
It is wrong for a pennant winner to suffer as the result of a summer contest featuring a group of men who by and large have never played together.
Then again, if the Rangers are as good as some experts claim they are, Texas might not need home-field advantage nor a Game 7 to win the World Series.
But then again, they might.
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