Baseball’s summer showcase was a good game, but what it represented was a joke. The National League earned home field advantage in the World Series because of Prince Fielder’s three-run home run but the reasoning behind that decision was extremely flawed. The 2002 All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie because both managers had emptied their rosters and had no one left to pitch after 11 innings of baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig then decided that the All-Star game needed meaning, so baseball began awarding home field advantage based on the All-Star game result.
This decision was ludicrous for several reasons. First, there is no real motivation for the players to try to win the game. Most of them know their team won’t make the World Series, so the home field advantage means nothing to them. All-Star bonuses are paid regardless of performance or even appearance in the game. Thus, many players choose not to even play.
Second, why should World Series home field advantage depend on an otherwise meaningless exhibition game? Shouldn’t home field advantage depend upon something that the teams that make it to the World Series have done? Last year, the Giants had home field advantage in the Fall Classic because Braves catcher Brian McCann hit a 3-run home run in July. How does that make any sense at all?
So how do you fix the All-Star game and, while we are at it, the World Series home field advantage? There is a simple fix for both. For the former, money. For the latter, merit. Here’s what I mean.
If you want the players to really play in the All-Star game and not just be there to have a good time, then you pay them, simple as that. But they have to earn their shares. So something like $250,000 to the winners and $50,000 to the losers. The actual winning and losing share amounts can be adjusted to reflect how much money the game generates, but the difference between winner’s and loser’s shares should be roughly a 5-to-1 percentage. The players have to be there on the team to collect though. So if you get named to the team, but decide you can’t be bothered to show up, you get nothing. If you get named to the team, but are injured and can’t play, you get nothing. At the same time, you eliminate All-Star bonuses from contracts. So the only way the players get paid for an All-Star game is to show up ready to play. And since the winner’s share is significantly larger than the loser’s share, the players will be motivated to both show up and do their best to win.
As for fixing home field advantage at the World Series, it is simple…the team with the best record during the regular season gets home field advantage. The standard argument against this is the teams in the Series have played different schedules, so it is unfair to the team that played a harder schedule. My response to that? So what. Major league baseball went to an unbalanced schedule several years ago now because of interleague play. Thus, you have teams in the same divisions that play different teams in interleague play and a different number of games against other non-division teams in their league. There is nothing fair about baseball schedules anymore. So different baseball schedules is not an adequate excuse to not use team records to determine home field advantage in the World Series. This is hardly an original idea. Many others have advocated team records for home field advantage. If one team has a more difficult schedule, so be it. Before a season begins, no one really knows how difficult each team’s schedule will be anyway. What appears to be a difficult schedule may turn out quite easy or vice versa. The added benefit to using team records is that teams who are comfortably in first will have motivation to do well instead of coasting down the stretch run.
Right now, the All-Star game is a joke of an exhibition. Baseball needs to fix it or end it.